London Fire Brigade

Brigade warns Christmas revellers not to lose their keys

18 December 2013

London Fire Brigade is today warning people to take care not to lose their keys following parties and celebrations over the festive season. Last year saw an increase in the number of 999 calls to people locked in or locked out of their homes, and fire chiefs are concerned that the number could rise again.

‘Locked out’ calls have cost taxpayers nearly £10 million over the last four years, with London’s fire crews attending 28,712 of the calls since April 2009. Firefighters went to 6,947 ‘locked out’ calls in 2012/13 – nearly half (49%) of which were not deemed emergencies when firefighters arrived on the scene. This was an increase from 6,939 the previous year.

Third Officer Dave Brown said:

“Getting locked out can be a real pain, but you should not dial 999 unless there is a real emergency. We’re urging everyone to take care with their keys and this is something we’re particularly concerned about with the Christmas party season upon us.

“If you’re planning on having a few Christmas sherries, we’ d urge you to leave a key with a friend or neighbour, rather than risk calling 999 and wasting emergency service time.

”If there is a risk of a fire, it’s a real emergency, or you can’t get to a young child inside, then we will come and help. But ringing just because you don’t want to pay for a locksmith is not good enough.”

Firefighters attend 19 calls a day to people who are locked out.

Since April 2009, firefighters have been called to a range of unusual incidents, including:

- 29 people who were locked inside shops
- 4 people locked in allotments
- 3012 calls to people trapped in toilets or bathrooms
- 40 people locked in offices
- 103 people locked in car parks
- 12 people trapped in cemeteries
- A man locked in with his foot trapped in a toilet
- A person trapped in the luggage area of a coach

The advice is particularly important for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, as the Fire Brigades Union will be on strike.

Notes to editors

Each incident is estimated to cost at least £290 plus VAT (£348).
In 2009/10 crews attended 7,546 locked out calls.
In 2010/11 crews attended 7,280 locked out calls.
In 2011/12 crews attended 6,939 locked out calls.
In 2012/13 crews attended 6,947 locked out calls at a cost of £2.4 million.

In the last four years, the Brigade attended 28,712 calls to people locked out of their homes, which is estimated to have cost taxpayers nearly ten million pounds (£9,991,776).

The Fire Brigades Union has announced its members will be on strike 1900-0000 on Christmas Eve and 1830-0030 on New Year’s Eve, as well as 0630-0830 on 3 January.

During the strike firefighters will attend:

• Serious fires –  like those in Londoners’ homes – confirmed by a 999 call
• Fires that involve gas cylinders or hazardous substances.
• Explosions
• Vehicle fires or boat fires
• Fires at railway stations and rail and road tunnels or fires involving people in underground tunnels
• Aircraft or train crashes
• Road traffic collisions
• Collapsed structures

During the strike firefighters may not be able to attend:

• Grass fires and other outdoor fires such as trees, hedges or undergrowth alight.
• Rubbish fires (including fires in bins and skips) and fires on open ground.
• Animal rescues (these will be referred to the RSPCA).
• People shut in lifts (owners of buildings are responsible for ensuring arrangements are in place to release people from faulty lifts).
• Flooding
• Automatic fire alarms – a fire engine will only be sent when the fire has been confirmed by a 999 call.