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Fire crews responded to 45,000 false fire alarms in five years

Fire and rescue services received 46,260 erroneous calls from automatic fire alarms in the last five years, mostly from Frimley Park Hospital and the Wellington Centre in Aldershot

Fire crews throughout the News & Mail patch have responded to more than 45,000 false fire alarm calls in the past five years – averaging one every 56 minutes.

Surrey, Hampshire and Royal Berkshire fire and rescue services received 46,260 erroneous calls from automatic fire alarms (AFAs) between 2008/09 and 2012/13.

These are incidents where an alarm is triggered and the system automatically dials 999, alerting the emergency services. AFAs are a legal requirement for premises such as hospitals and schools.

Among the top call-out spots were Frimley Park Hospital, Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals, the Wellington Centre in Aldershot and St George’s Court, in Farnborough.

While each service individually budgets for phantom emergency calls, the Fire Industry Association says false alarms cost the economy around £1bn every year.

There has, however, been a decline in the number of false AFA calls over the past five years across all three fire authorities.

False AFAs in Berkshire are down by 54%, from 3,825 to 1,740 to the end of 2012, while in Surrey, false calls fell 15%, from 3,909 to 3,316 over the same period.

Hampshire saw a slight fall of 3%, from 4,095 in 2009/10 – the first year the authority began recording false AFAs – to 3,966 in 2012/13.

Between April 1 2012 and March 31 2013, Hampshire Fire and Rescue attended nearly 4,000 false alarms, which has been described as a ‘massive drain’ on resources and the ability to respond to genuine emergencies.

A spokesman said while AFAs were recognised for the ‘significant contribution’ they make to the fire safety of people, buildings and the environment, there were signs the increasing number of systems was resulting in more false alarms.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue, serving Sandhurst and Crowthorne, employs a call challenge policy, which ensures its fire crews attend only genuine emergencies.

A spokesman added the authority budgeted for AFA calls and thus there were no additional running costs or losses in staff time.

 

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