London Fire Brigade

Brigade plans to recoup false alarm cost from culprits

09 May 2013

London’s hospitals with the worst false alarms record could be hit with a £700,000 a year bill according to plans being consulted on by the London Fire Brigade.

The Brigade has today released details of the top five worst property types for false alarms and how much it would have recouped if the cost recovery scheme was already in place. The Brigade believes the total bill could be £1.3 million a year.

The cost recovery plans are outlined in the Brigade’s Draft Fifth London Safety Plan, which is currently out for consultation. The Brigade would recover the cost from those responsible for the fire alarm systems where firefighters are called out to false alarms ten times or more in a 12 month period.

Below are the top five property types, along with the charges which would have been given if the plans were  in place last year:

 Type of property

 Number of charges

  Amount

 Hospital

   2,683

  £697,580

 Student hall of residence

 432 

  £112,320

 Airport

  246

  £63,960

 College/University

  201

  £52,260

 Hotel/Motel

  167

  £43,420


The Brigade is currently called out to 403 such buildings more than ten times each year. Under the new proposals, these incidents could cost building owners at least £290 for each fire engine that attends.

Ron Dobson, Commissioner of London Fire Brigade, said:

“Firefighters ought to be available to attend genuine emergencies or carry out training or community fire safety work, rather than attending thousands of false alarms. Often false alarms are caused by poor management or maintenance of alarm systems.

“This plan is not about making money but recouping our spend on unwanted call outs and we want the public to get involved in our consultation and tell us what they think about our proposals.”

False alarms from automatic systems account for over 40,000 call outs every year, making up a third of all incidents for fire crews in London.

As well as being time consuming for firefighters, false alarms are also costly - in London, it is estimated that false alarms cost the Brigade around £37 million each year - and the cost to the UK economy in lost productivity is estimated at around a billion pounds per year.

The Brigade is also concerned that false fire alarms can cause complacency – when they go off all the time, there can be a tendency for people to ignore them, in the case of a real fire, this could be disastrous.

Recovering costs, if implemented, would form one part of the Brigade’s efforts to reduce unwanted call outs and fire chiefs will continue to give advice and guidance to building owners to help them reduce false alarms.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

About the Draft Fifth London Safety Plan

The proposal to recover the cost for repeat false alarm forms part of the Brigade’s Draft Fifth London Safety Plan, which sets out how it will work over the next three years. The consultation on the Plan began on Monday 4 March 2013 and is set to end on Monday 17 June 2013.

Members of the public can take part in the consultation at  http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/lsp5.asp, or by calling 0800 9888 569, by writing to the London Fire Brigade at 169 Union Street, London, SE1 0LL.

Public meetings are being held which cover every London borough. Members of the public are invited to attend the meetings to hear about the proposals and have their say. Details of the meetings are here:

False fire alarms

The false alarms at the hospitals mentioned are those generated by automatic fire alarm systems and fire detection systems.

Fire alarms act as a vital early warning system, helping keep people safe by alerting them to fires  and giving them more time to escape. However, the majority of automatic fire alarms are false alarms caused by faulty or badly maintained systems or things like burnt toast, steam or cigarette smoke.

The Brigade hopes the new recovery scheme, if introduced, will encourage the proper use and management of automatic fire alarm systems to make sure those responsible for them have the right processes in place to reduce the number of false alarms.

Under the proposals, care homes and sheltered housing would not have to pay as they are categorised as domestic premises.