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Fewer fire engines to be sent to automated calls in bid to cut false alarms

By e_glanfield  |  Posted: March 13, 2012

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Fewer fire engines will be dispatched to call-outs by automated smoke detectors in a bid to ensure crews are available for ‘genuine emergencies’.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service implemented the new policy in a bid to reduce the cost of attending false alarms created by automated systems.

The fire service said it will cut the number of crews it sends to automated fire alarms at domestic properties during daylight hours unless an actual fire is confirmed.

It will also seek to recover costs from the owners of non-domestic premises if call-outs repeatedly result in false alarms.

A spokesperson for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said: “These unnecessary call outs result in an increase in ‘blue light’ journeys that waste money and increase risk to the public and our crews through the delayed response to genuine emergencies.

“A reduction in false alarms will allow service appliances to be available for genuine emergencies and release essential resources for more training; as well as allowing more preventative and protection activities within the community to take place.

“Users of these automatic fire alarm systems also lose confidence in their ability to protect their properties from fire and repeated false alarms risk complacency amongst the users of buildings.”

Between April 2010 and March 2011, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service attended 18,552 calls to incidents. 4339 of these calls were to Automatic Fire Alarm (AFA) systems, and while 223 proved to be fires, 4090 (94%) were false alarms as the premises concerned had poor performing fire alarm systems.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority approved the implementation of a new Automatic Fire Alarm policy on Friday, February 17.

The Policy:

The policy is designed to reduce the impact of unwanted calls generated from automatic fire detection systems on service delivery, business and commerce and to support the safety of the community.

As from the 1 April 2012, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service will be implementing two new initiatives to reduce the number of false alarm calls it receives:

1. To reduce the amount of fire appliances sent to domestic properties fire alarms (smoke detectors) between the hours of 8.00am to 6.00pm, seven days a week unless a fire is confirmed.

2. With non-domestic premises to recover costs from the responsible person for our attendance when there is a persistent problem with false reports of fire, which are directly or indirectly caused by warning equipment under common control having malfunctioned or been misinstalled. Cost recovery would follow a staged approach where the service will seek to work with those responsible.

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  • Stork  |  March 14 2012, 2:01PM

    I'm surprised that this Fire Authority still "turn out" for automatic alarm diallers. Many UK Fire Authorities refused, years ago, to attend any automated requests for a appliance to be called out, due to the high number of false alarms. The same thing happened with many UK Police Forces refusing to "turn out" for false automated burglar alarms. Most UK Fire Authorities want automated calls to be dialled to a 24 hour manned reporting centre, who then telephone the appropriate keyholders on their list, to investigate the situation. If there is a fire, the keyholder is then responsible to contact the Fire Authority, who then will make an immediate "turn out", for a qualified incident.

  • 2ladybugs  |  March 14 2012, 9:07AM

    Do they just mean they will only send one fire appliance or are they saying they won't send any? I agree that if you have automated alarms they need to be checked if they are forever going off. We don't want the service being automatically sent out if the toast burns.

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  • Bangtastic  |  March 13 2012, 11:05PM

    A good policy, but what about the 4% that are genuine alarms?? If it costs even one life then it isn't worth the financial saving. A better way to save money would be to charge everyone that requires the fire brigade for chimney fires and cooker fires. These are mainly due to irresponsible people not taking responsibility for their actions, make them pay.

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