False fire alarms present continue problems for fire and rescue authorities up and down the country as resources are unnecessarily deployed to sites where there isn’t a real blaze.
Statistics from across the country have been published over the last few weeks showing that false call outs are putting a strain on resources at a time when many fire departments are faced with cuts.
Humberside Fire and Rescue Service have revealed that false alarms can cost thousands of pounds per year, along with risking the lives of those in need of help. In North Lincolnshire alone, 602 false alarms in 2012 are thought to have cost around £21,407 with 40 of them classified as malicious.
It is in the interest of businesses, schools and other commercial properties help to ensure false alarm numbers are kept to a minimum. False alarms have cost implications for the responsible person and their business. The Fire Industry Association actively promote its ‘Cut False Alarm Costs campaign’ aimed at educating firms on proper management of fire alarm and detection systems. Fire protection companies such as Shires Fire and Safety are also happy to educate their customers.
It is in the best interests of businesses to ensure fire alarms only go off in the event of a real incident or a test, with a loss of productivity among staff being a key pitfalls of failing to do so. On top of this, increased insurance premiums, call out charges from the fire protection company who monitor the alarm and a possible future charging for attendance by fire and rescue services add in a financial cost.
While in this instance false alarms can be avoided through proper management of systems and regular maintenance, there is an unfortunate element of alarms being sounded because of deliberate misuse.
Bucks Fire and Rescue Service’s unwanted fire signals officer Malcolm Brightman told the Bucks Herald: “The fire service, ambulance service, police and courts take a very dim view of this type of behaviour and it is something we all want to see ended.”
And he added that a false call-out – malicious or not – can have far-reaching consequences.
“The true cost of commercial false alarms is they cause disruption to the premises where they are happening, can interfere with training and community safety work firefighters carry out when they are not attending emergency incidents and mean we may have to bring in emergency service vehicles from further afield in the event of another incident occurring in the same area at the same time.”
Since the introduction of the Localism Act 2011, local fire authorities can now charge following persistent false alarms and facilities managers need to be aware of this new cost of poor management of the fire alarm system. The costs of production loss coupled with potential fines will quickly dwarf the cost of managing and maintaining a fire detection system.
Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service’s community fire safety manager Rabinder Dhami told the Shropshire Star: “Although the national average is estimated at £400 per call attended this can vary greatly depending on the type of incident reported and what resources need to be sent from which part of the county. More importantly resources are being deployed at a time when finances are being cut.”
With lives potentially at stake it is essential that fire and detection systems are managed and maintained properly, with the hope that fire services will be reporting falling numbers of false alarms in the future.
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