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Fire chief’s warning over misfiring alarm systems wasting resources

London Fire Brigade looking at billing for unnecessary callouts as figures rise

12 May, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

CAMDEN’S fire chief has warned that units are unnecessarily responding to faulty alarm systems which trigger emergency calls.

Latest figures reveal Camden was the borough with the second-highest “AFA” – automatic fire alarm – call-outs in London last year, with 2,622 incidents. Businesses often fit automatic systems to protect sites and buildings when they are closed, while they are commonly used in hospitals and schools.

Borough commander Simon Tuhill said: “We really want to be responding when people need us. When someone dials 999 they want a fire engine really quickly. We have no problem with when people think it’s an emergency. But when it’s a system-based issue, it’s a waste of resources.”

His warning comes as London Fire Brigade begins a review into whether building owners can be charged for repeated automatic false alarms.

Mr Tuhill told the New Journal: “Some of our resources are tied up with an AFA and not able to respond to real emergencies. “We have enough cover from other fire stations and will send another fire engine if we had to but it’s always best to send the closest one and they are going to get there quicker. It’s an unnecessary mobilisation.”

Larger buildings, such as hospitals and offices, have complex fire systems built into them rather than just smoke alarms like those found at most residential properties.

Mr Tuhill said there were various reasons the alarms could go off, including positioning a detector in the wrong place and dust and particles collecting in the alarm.

Cooking can trigger the alarm in certain circumstances. He urged building owners to have systems serviced and to check they are working correctly, as faults can cause activation.

Mr Tuhill attributed the rise in alarms to more buildings being built with fire systems. The fire brigade is working with building owners and managers to reduce unnecessary call-outs. Some weeks there are more than 50 call-outs triggered by automatic systems.

London Fire Brigade introduced charges in 2013 for repeated automated false alarms. That saw a reduction in call-outs.

A spokesman added: “We are reviewing how that charge should be applied and targeted so we can drive down false alarm calls even further. We have suspended cost recovery while this review is taking place.”


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