Alarm bells sound over cost of false fire call outs


Sarah Staples

SHROPSHIRE Fire and Rescue Service spent more than £60,000 sending appliances to false alarms and incidents where they were not required in the last 12 months, it’s been revealed.

Firefighters attended 172 false alarms in Oswestry and the surrounding areas and 46 appliances were sent to incidents where they were not required between June 2013 and June 2014, costing the brigade £60,754.42.

On average there were three false alarms per week.
One pumping appliance costs £278.69 to attend an incident for up to one hour, meaning the total cost could amount to more if an appliance was on call for more than an hour.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service currently deploys one appliance to small fires not involving property, two to fires involving property, and three to fires that possibly affect people.
The brigade needs to make £900,000 in savings by 2020 and is currently exploring cost-cutting measures including merging controls with another service.
Oswestry town mayor, John Gareth Jones said: “It’s astounding.
“We need to change the public attitude to false alarms so that it will help the costs of running the service.
“Lives could be lost because the fire engine could be somewhere else dealing with a false alarm.
“We need to make sure the public knows what to do if they have a small fire, to save all these engines being called out.”

But John Redmond, chief fire officer for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, said the brigade mobilises appliances based on risk and prioritises the safety of people who may be involved in an incident.
He said: “People phone us and we have to determine from the person making the call, who is usually in a distressed state, what we need to send out.
“Often there are times what they think we need to send out is not actually what is needed,” he added.
Mr Redmond added that the fire service is working to reduce call-outs as a result of false alarms. “People put fire alarms in buildings and sometimes they go faulty and go off,” he said. “People in those buildings think they should call the fire service as a result when really they don’t always need to.
“There’s a very fine balance between us protecting people from fire and reducing costs.
“We tell people to get out of a building if the alarm goes. But if there is no obvious fire in the building and if it’s safe we say they can check the building first before calling the fire service.
“The highest item on our agenda is prevention,” he added.

l Shropshire Fire and Rescue has seen a drop from 1,756 false alarm calls in 1998/99 to 917 through 2013/14 across the county.
A policy introduced in April to target premises that repeatedly raise false alarms has also seen a reduction in calls to the brigade.

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