Cost of false alarm calls

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WIGAN’S firefighters were called out more than 500 times by false alarms last year, costing more than £80,000.

Members of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service attended 528 automatic fire alarm (AFAs) call-outs across the borough in 2012, wasting 217 hours and 15 minutes of crews’ time.

It is estimated that it costs £400 per hour for one appliance and crew.

False alarms are when AFAs are wrongly activated or when people set off alarms when there is no emergency.

These are often in schools, hospitals and business premises. But while the number of unnecessary call-outs had reduced from the previous year’s total of 535, five more hours were spent attending to false alarms, with only 212 hours spent on them in 2011.

The most AFAs in recent years was in 2010, with 644, amounting to 337 hours of wasted brigade time.

This figure had jumped dramatically from 2009, with 572 unwarranted visits, totalling 324 hours, 42 minutes.

Steve Sheridan, borough manager, warned that sending fire crews on unnecessary jobs was a waste of public money and that business owners and schools should make the correct checks to ensure whether there really was a fire to trigger off the alert.

He said; “We now spend more time at AFAs as we attempt to discuss the false alarm with the responsible person in order to prevent a reoccurrence.

“Fire crews also use the opportunity to check the buildings for compliance with the Fire Regulatory Reform Order 2005.

“The vast majority of fire alarm actuations are false calls and result in considerable expenditure to the fire service.

“That is public money being wasted, so we request that business owners and schools check out the reason for the alarm as long as it’s safe to do so.

“Buildings are designed in that you can walk away from a fire should the alarm sound. Anyone wanting advice can contact their local fire station.

“We don’t charge for call outs of this type. If we were to charge however, we usually send one pump to a fire alarm and, as a base standard charge it costs £400 per hour for appliance and crew. 

“Depending on the location, for example, a high rise flat, this could be more than two pumps.”