London Fire Brigade

Tough new penalties for non-emergency lift rescues

01 October 2013

London Fire Brigade has today announced that councils and businesses will face tough new penalties if they persistently call 999 to deal with non-emergency lift call outs.

Under the new rules, the Brigade will recover £290 plus VAT from the owners of buildings and lifts for attending non-emergency lift call outs. The charge is applied from the third occasion firefighters are called to the same building in a twelve month period. Londoners were consulted on the new rules and they were agreed as part of the Fifth London Safety Plan.

Since November 2009 firefighters have attended around 7,400 fewer lift releases a year, equivalent to £2 million of the Brigade’s time and resources. But new figures show that last year fire crews in London still attended a total of 6,430 lift rescues - around 17 each day.

The Brigade still wants to be called when there is a genuine emergency but less than 1 per cent, just 57 of the nearly 6,500 lift rescues last year were medical cases.

To highlight the problem the Brigade has released the top ten worst offenders for non-emergency calls to people stuck in lifts. The number one building was a block of flats on Thurlow Street in Walworth in south east London where last year firefighters were called once a fortnight to deal with somebody trapped inside a lift.

The top ten buildings and the number of call outs in 2012/13 are:
1. Wendover, Thurlow Street SE17 - 27
2. Hornbeam House, Maitland Park Villas, NW3 - 20
3. Earlsdown House, Wheelers Cross, IG11 - 19
4. Maydew House, Abbeyfield Road, SE16 - 16
5. Bradenham, Boyson Road, Walworth, SE17 - 15
6. Hillrise Mansions, Wartlersville Road, N19 - 15
7. Eddystone Tower, Oxestall Road, SE8 - 15
8. Delafield House, Christian Street, E1 - 14
9. Hastings House, Sherborne Avenue, EN3 - 13
10. Rothay, Albany Street, NW1 - 13

Although the number of lift releases has halved since the Brigade’s introduction of cost recovery and call filtering in November 2009 the Brigade believes the number of unnecessary call outs is still too high.

Chairman London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, James Cleverly, said:

“It is encouraging to see a reduction in lift call outs, however, firefighters are still attending 17 lift rescues each day.  We hope this tough new charging scheme will send a clear message to building owners that this is not acceptable.

“As well as being costly for the fire service, being trapped in a lift can be frightening and uncomfortable which is why we’re calling on building owners to take responsibility and sort their shoddy lifts out.

“Firefighters will always attend a call out where it is a real emergency but in many of these cases it should be up to the person in charge of the building whose lift has broken down, to fix the problem.”

The Brigade introduced the cost recovery programme to ensure that building and lift owners maintain their lifts properly. It says that when people are shut in lifts and their health is not at risk, lift engineers should be called rather than the Brigade. This would ensure that firefighters are free to attend real emergencies and carry out important fire safety work.

Notes to Editors

The new cost recovery plans where outlined in the Brigade’s Fifth London Safety Plan and approved at London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority meeting on 18 July.

In a further bid to reduce unnecessary lift call outs the Brigade also uses a filtering system on 999 calls to establish whether or not there is a real emergency or whether there is anyone else who can release the person from the lift, such as a lift engineer. 

This initiative, combined with the introduction of charges, has led to a 30 per cent reduction in the number of lift incidents since 2009.  For more information and who to contact, see reducing lift calls.

At the end of November 2009 the Brigade had attended 13,823 lift releases in the 12 month previous.