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Fire service considers cuts to fire alarm response at commercial premises

The plan, under which fire service crews will respond to an alarm only when it is followed by a confirmation call that attendance is required, will unnecessary mobilisation of fire crews and tenders by up to 38%.

The county’s Fire & Rescue Authority agreed in October that firefighters will not attend automatic fire alarm alerts during office hours from premises that do not provide sleeping accommodation unless the affected location calls them to confirm there is an incident such as a fire.

This could reduce call-outs to false alarms by more than 400 a year.

In 2014, 98% of responses to the 2,000 automatic fire alarm alerts were false alarms, many repeat calls to the same premises. Only one in 50 automatic fire alarms is caused by a genuine emergency.

BFRS business and commercial safety manager John Foolkes said: “False alarms from AFAs mean our firefighters are not available to respond to real fires and has financial consequences for the service.

"There is the cost of sending fire appliances to false AFAs and there is the cost and inconvenience of taking on-call firefighters from their jobs or homes for no purpose.”

The fire service will work with repeat offenders to reduce their false AFAs but may implement charges if false alarms to the same premises do not lessen as a result.

The new policy will not affect AFAs from non-commercial premises and BFRS will continue to respond to all AFAs out of office hours.

Mr Foolkes said: “AFAs should provide an early warning of a fire that would otherwise not be detected, usually when the building is not occupied.

"If there are employees present who would quickly notice a fire then alarms that could be set off accidentally by common issues like building work, aerosols or cooking could be isolated by building managers to reduce the chance of a false alarm.

“We will work closely with those responsible for repeated false alarms to reduce them.

"But if they fail to find a solution they could face formal enforcement action or even a charge of hundreds of pounds for each false AFA.” 

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