Suffolk firefighters attend 1,600 false alarm calls

Suffolk firefighters attend 1,600 false alarm calls

FIREFIGHTERS FOR Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) were called out 1,625 times due to false alarms during 2016/17.

Lowestoft Journal reported on the figures, which saw firefighters called out to and attending 1,625 instances of false alarm activations in 2016/17, while there have been 941 in 2017/18 already. The callouts are ‘estimated to cost the taxpayer thousands’, with the figures obtained via a freedom of information request. In 2015/16 the service’s crews were called out to 1,686 false alarms, with Suffolk County Council stating it was ‘not possible to say how much this costs the taxpayer’.

An estimated figure ‘reaches into the thousands’, with station commander Paul Goodman commenting that the service is ‘working hard to reduce and manage false fire alarms where possible. Many commercial properties and buildings that provide accommodation are fitted with automatic alarms for safety.

‘Some of these alarms are around 20-30 years old and may be prone to false alerts. Suffolk Fire and Rescue is involved in development work at a national level with the National Fire Chiefs Council in collaboration with the fire alarm industry to develop and install systems that are less prone to false alarms. This work is ongoing. In the meantime our officers continue to visit premises around the county to review their alarm requirements’.

John O’Connell, chief executive at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, stated: ‘These numbers seem incredibly high, and several false calls a day is not an acceptable number. Taxpayers should not have to pay for so many wasted call-out journeys and firefighters shouldn’t be subjected to so many extra and unnecessary stresses. It is not beyond modern technology to find a solution to this, as the tens of thousands these call-outs cost could and should be put to much better use.’

Keith MacGillivray, chief executive of the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA), added that dust, steam and aerosols are ‘the highest cause’ of unwanted alarms, noting: ‘The problem of false alarms from automatic fire alarms has been with us for very many years however, more recently Fire and Rescue Services have been actively campaigning to reduce such calls.’