Firefighters getting fewer false alarms after introducing fines

Firefighters in County Durham have had to deal with fewer false alarms since they started charging businesses for unnecessary call-outs.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 6:49 pm

Bosses at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) began trialling the scheme last year, threatening fines of almost £300 for premises which were visited three or more times over the course of a year.

And the new regime, introduced from April last year (2019), had almost immediate impact, with a 15 per cent slump in the number of ‘unwanted fire signals’ in just six months and netting the brigade more than £6,000.

According to chief fire officer (CFO) Stuart Errington, NHS properties are some of the worst culprits for false alarms, but solutions were being found for the problems.

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File picture of a County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service vehicle
File picture of a County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service vehicle

He said: “What we’ve seen in early stages of the trial was engagement with University Hospital of North Durham (UHND) and then putting in a five-minute delay to check if there has been an unwanted fire signal.

“There’s 500 detector heads in the hospital, so they are more likely to get one, but we’ve had no instances where one turned out to be a fire.

“We do have some exceptions though, we’ve told [Durham Cathedral] that as a world heritage asset we don’t want them to have a five minute delay.”

CFO Errington was speaking at this week’s (Thursday, January 9) meeting of Durham County Council’s Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

The charges were raised as part of CDDFRS’s Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) for 2020/21 – 2022/23, which is out for public consultation until March 6.

Other measures proposed in the plan include an overhaul of staffing arrangements at six of the brigades stations across County Durham.

Unwanted fire signals can be caused by faulty equipment other factors such as cooking fumes, dust or cigarette smoke, and were behind 751 call-outs to non-domestic properties by CDDFRS in 2017/18 – equivalent to almost a tenth of all incidents the brigade attended that year.

Coun Rob Crute said: “I support this proposal, there is clearly a problem that needs to be mitigated.

“The only slight problem I have is if someone is on a second warning, might they err on the side of caution and perhaps go into danger to check on a fire if they’re worried about being billed for a third call out.”