18 May 2015

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service has reduced its call-outs to false alarms by 66 per cent over the past seven years.

In 2008/09, the county’s fire service responded to 2,741 unwanted fire signals, which happen when an automatic fire detection system is activated even though a fire has not occurred.

Following a thorough risk assessment, a policy which sets out when the fire service will respond to automatic fire alarms has seen that number reduced to 969 in 2014/15 – bringing the level of unnecessary call-outs below 1,000 a year for the first time.

Automatic response

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service will now only respond to automatic fire alarms before a fire is confirmed in the following instances:

  • Domestic premises
  • Any sleeping risk, such as care or nursing homes, houses of multiple occupancy, high rise tower blocks and boarding schools
  • Hospitals between 8pm and 8am
  • Any sprinkler activation
  • Premises deemed as special risk by the fire service

All other premises without a sleeping risk such as offices, shops, factories and public buildings will only receive a call-out to an automatic fire alarm once a fire has been confirmed.

Similar policies have also been introduced by a large number of other fire and rescue services across the UK.

'Genuine emergencies'

Cllr André Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member for strategic infrastructure, economic growth and public protection, said: “Unwanted fire signals used to account for about 30 per cent of all incidents Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service attended and these unnecessary call-outs have a serious impact as they divert firefighters from genuine emergencies.

“There is also the potential for the alarm system to lose credibility, as there’s a risk people can become complacent in the event of a real fire and ignore the alarm, and these unnecessary call-outs cost taxpayers money.

“The fire service has done a fantastic job in reducing the number of unwanted fire signals to below 1,000 a year for the first time ever and this leaves our firefighters free to respond to genuine, potentially life-saving incidents.

“The reduction in unwanted fire signals has also reduced the number of occasions that a fire engine is driven on blue lights through our county’s roads, thereby cutting the road risk to our firefighters and the public.”

Legal duty

There is no legal duty for fire brigades to attend premises because an automatic fire detection system has activated. The duty lies with the person responsible for the premises to investigate their own fire alarm and only call the fire service if signs of a fire are confirmed.