22 January 2010

Northamptonshire County Council’s fire and rescue service is working to reduce the number of false alarm calls to ensure fire fighters are free to respond to genuine emergencies as quickly as possible.

Known as unwanted fire signals, these calls occur when an automatic fire detection system is activated and upon investigation by the fire service it is found that a fire has not occurred.

The effects of these types of false alarms include disruption to business and loss of revenue and productivity, as well as the potential for the alarm system to lose credibility, risking people becoming complacent in the event of a real fire.

Unwanted fire signals also have a serious impact to the fire and rescue service, diverting fire fighters from other genuine emergencies and potentially life-saving activity.

The fire and rescue service is introducing a new policy which outlines several new approaches to help combat this problem. These are:

  • Adopting clear protocols for fire control staff to enable them to be better able to establish the cause of an alarm, rather than automatically dispatching fire appliances. However, certain premises will be exempt from these protocols, including domestic and residential buildings, care homes, hospitals, high-rise and unoccupied buildings.
  • Working more closely with those people who are responsible for the fire safety arrangements within the premises.
  • Encouraging the adoption of a new protocol which minimises the possibility of false alarms occurring when a premises is occupied.

Darren Dovey, the service’s area manager for service delivery said “We have been working hard to address the issue on unwanted fire signals which has a wide-spreading impact across the county. Vital staff and appliances are being sent to deal with unwanted fire signals and so are not available to respond to genuine emergencies.”

“By introducing this new policy and improving engagement with a greater number of businesses across the county, the number of false alarms the service is called to will reduce. This will have a measurable impact on community safety across the county.”

Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member with responsibility for customers and communities said: “On average, false alarms caused by automatic detection systems make up around 30% of incidents attended by our fire and rescue service, diverting our resources from the people and emergencies which need them the most.

“We are putting in place a policy that will help us to respond quickly when a fire has been confirmed and provide the appropriate level of response as well as looking at why a false alarm has occurred in a premises and seeing what can be done to reduce the likelihood of it reoccurring by working with those responsible.

“Our fire and rescue service is absolutely committed to providing the best possible service for the people of Northamptonshire and by reducing the impact of unwanted fire signals we can ensure that our service is ready and able to respond to genuine emergencies.”

The new unwanted fire signal policy is being introduced from 25 January. Members of the public who want more information about the policy or fire safety training opportunities can contact Northamptonshire fire and rescue service by emailing enquiries@northantsfire.org.uk telephoning 01604 797000 or visiting www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/en/councilservices/fire

Additional Information:

  • On average, Northamptonshire fire and rescue responds to 2,718 unwanted fire signals each year, an average of 30% of all incidents attended.
  • An average of 60% of all false alarms involving an automatic fire detection system occur between 8am and 6pm whilst the premises is occupied.