Fire minister says dealing with false fire alarms must be a priority

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The government's fire minister has backed calls for action over false fire alarms, which are costing fire and rescue services millions of pounds every year.

Speaking at the Fire Sector Summit at Wembley on Wednesday October 24th, he said tackling false alarms must be a major priority at a time when "every penny counts".

He cited new figures which show that in the UK capital, fire engines attend a false alarm every 12 minutes, costing the brigade £34 million annually.

Of course this is just in London, and fire and rescue services across the whole of the UK are experiencing the same problem.

Some are putting in place new measures to cut the cost of false alarms, either by charging building owners for them or putting an end to automatic fire alarm callouts at certain times of the day.

Mr Lewis said he thought advances in technology could be used to prevent false alarms from occurring in the first place.

"To that end, I have asked the industry to see what can be done to drive down false alarms through improved equipment," he remarked.

This could include multi-sensor fire detectors, which are able to detect both smoke and heat, for example, giving emergency services a better idea if whether or not a real fire has occurred.

Indeed, environmental factors such as steam or dust can often trigger alarms and lead to unnecessary callouts by fire crews.

Mr Lewis also called for greater collaboration between fire and rescue services and other industry bodies to find out which technologies and initiatives are working.

He said this would enable them to develop a common approach to reducing false fire alarms, which not only waste money but could also cost lives.

False alarms can cause financial loss among businesses too, through lost production, disruption due to staff evacuation and increased insurance premiums.

And since fire services in England and Wales have the power to charge for false alarm call-outs under the new Localism Bill, there could be additional costs as well.

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