WHAT do you do when the smoke alarm sounds? The interminable tests we practised at school, shivering out in the cold in lines as an imaginary blaze engulfs the building, prepared us for what to do in a real emergency. By the time we are enduring weekly office checks which tend to signal a trip to the coffee machine to escape the ear-splitting drill, we’re probably inured to any potential real-life threat.

After an already delayed kick-off to the Premiership match between Dundee and Rangers at Dens Park on Wednesday night, the away section suddenly ignited into a fluorescent red glow and before we knew it referee Kevin Clancy was ordering the players off the field of play after smoke alarms had gone off inside the old Tayside ground.

The Herald: Referee Kevin Clancy instructs Dundee and Rangers players to leave the field of play at Dens ParkReferee Kevin Clancy instructs Dundee and Rangers players to leave the field of play at Dens Park (Image: PA)

READ MORE: Police Scotland probing 'worrying' Rangers fan pyro display

Eventually the flares were extinguished, the smoke dissipated, and the players returned. For those of us with already straining deadlines in the print media, it was an inconvenience we could do without, but hardly life-threatening all the same. Or is that missing the point?

Police Scotland condemned the incident in the aftermath, with Superintendent Iain Wales reinforcing that “taking pyrotechnics into a football stadium is not only an offence, it is extremely dangerous”.

While no arrests were made at the match, Wales said retrospective enquiries are being carried out, with an appeal to the public to provide any information they may have surrounding the incident.

The SPFL reflected some of these concerns. “The extensive use of pyrotechnics at the match at Dens Park is very concerning and unwelcome,” was the official response. “The disruption to the game is obviously extremely regrettable.” For those supporters braving the elements on Tayside, with work and family commitments the next morning (and to those of us with the print works breathing down our necks) this disruption was indeed something of a nuisance. "We await the delegate report and will be liaising with Police Scotland on the incident.”

But this is hardly the first time the use of pyro in Scottish football has come to the fore in recent years, and the alarm bells have been ringing for some time – so what exactly are we all waiting for? Will it really take someone being badly harmed during one of these incidents to arouse a practical response? 

The Herald: A pyro display takes place behind Kyogo Furuhashi at Hampden Park two years agoA pyro display takes place behind Kyogo Furuhashi at Hampden Park two years ago (Image: SNS)

READ MORE: Dundee condemn 'unacceptable' behaviour in stands during Rangers clash

My own first experience of a smoke alarm in the family abode came at the tender age of six years old. There was a certain closing-the-barn-door-after-the-horse-has-bolted element to the incessant beeping of that little plastic circle, as what it signified on that occasion was that a bedroom on the first landing was already completely ablaze and spreading fast.

By the time we had evacuated onto the street, fire engines were already blaring up the road, having spotted dark plumes above the roof before the alarm had even sounded inside. No waiting for reports, no liaising, no procrastinating. If you can see the danger from afar, it seems, best to act before someone gets hurt.

In response to the events at Dens Park, area commander Jason Sharp , the Scottish Fire and Service's local senior officer for Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross, issue a statement to Herald Sport.

“We are increasingly seeing a variety of pyrotechnic devices being used at stadiums and events across Scotland," Sharp said. “As a national emergency service, we have concerns over the misuse of these types of materials as they can reach temperatures of 1200 degrees and can continue to burn even when discarded.

“These items can pose a number of risks including potentially serious injury to anyone within the vicinity of a live pyrotechnic and a fire risk dependant on where the pyrotechnic is discharged.

“The Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill was introduced in 2022 to control the sale and use of pyrotechnics and fireworks.  Along with our partners, we are committed to keeping Scotland safe – and we would urge our communities to help us do so by working together to stamp out this dangerous behaviour.”

It is understood that there is a conference taking place this month at Hampden involving SPFL, Scottish Government and Police Scotland stakeholders, with the issue of new legislation relating to the use of pyro inside Scottish grounds high on the agenda. But does this approach show enough urgency? What kind of alarm are we dealing with here? Is it a mere nuisance causing unwanted delays at matches, or is there a clear and present danger involved?

We all react to alarms in different ways. Whether it’s wafting a tea towel at your home smoke alarm to deescalate an overreaction to your burnt Hovis, or the nocturnal horror of dealing with a chirping low-battery signal in the middle of the night – where you find yourself in the back garden with a trowel burying the thing like the anti-hero in an Edgar Allan Poe tale.

False alarm? Negligible risk? Which was it at Dens Park on Wednesday night? Neither is the honest answer. And you’d have to say the reaction from all the relevant authorities until now has been much more aligned with burying the problem and resetting the alarm after the event has passed.

We’ve had smoke bombs, flares, fireworks, even, inside our grounds with alarming frequency since the return of supporters following the Covid-19 restrictions. Will Wednesday night’s episode at Dens Park alter things now that the alarm has literally sounded?

The Herald: Leigh Griffiths kicks a smoke bomb off the field during a match between Dundee and St Johnstone in September 2021Leigh Griffiths kicks a smoke bomb off the field during a match between Dundee and St Johnstone in September 2021 (Image: SNS)

READ MORE: Clement says Rangers fan dynamic 'changing' but begs 'keep pyro out'

What do Rangers do now, for instance, on the back of Wednesday night's scenes? Celtic have reached their own breaking point with the self-styled “ultra” section of their support. Whether it’s racking up UEFA fines or going against the wishes of the club’s board or the authorities – not least, by using pyrotechnics inside stadia – the balance between contributing to the atmosphere and spectacle and actually diminishing the experience and endangering fellow supporters (and harming the club financially and reputationally) has been tipped to such a level that chairman Peter Lawwell & Co have moved to terminate the season tickets of around 350 supporters associated with the Green Brigade supporters’ group.

The hope is clubs and governing bodies can urgently work together with the emergency services and deal with this ticking timebomb in our game. The alarm has been sounding for some time, however, and the problem can no longer be buried and ignored.