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Revealed: False alarms cost fire service £450k

Staffordshire | News | Published:

Firefighters in Staffordshire were called nearly 3,500 times in one year when they were not needed - costing taxpayers £450,000, it has been revealed.

Just weeks after bosses confirmed more than 40 firefighter posts would be axed to save £1.1million this year, the true cost of unnecessary call-outs has been revealed.

Between July 2014 and June this year Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service attended 3,489 incidents when they were not required.

While in most cases - 2,045 - the alert was made with genuine concern it has been revealed that in the same period there were 125 malicious calls to deliberately waste firefighters' time - more than twice a week.

In 1,329 of the cases the call-out came from automated alert systems often fitted to businesses.

As a result, fire chiefs announced in June they would no longer attend the majority of incidents where a fire has not been confirmed, with the exception of a few high risk cases.

Group manager Paul Shaw said: "Attending false alarms is frustrating as firefighters attending to them may be needed at a real emergency such as a fire or road traffic collision.

"They can also take crews away from critical firefighter training or community safety work and in the case of on-call firefighters needlessly take them away from their normal place of work.

"This frustration is heightened when the false alarm was malicious, although these occasions tend to be in the minority.

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"A large proportion of false alarms are caused by faulty equipment, often due to a lack of maintenance of the system or the competency of the fire alarm companies fitting the alarms."

"Last year false alarms cost us in the region of £450,000 a year; however we expect this figure to fall as we introduced a new policy on June 1."

Mr Shaw added that businesses were legally obligated to install suitable fire detection equipment which was regularly tested and maintained.

Although the service confirmed that it does not levy any charge on companies where repeated false alarms occurred.

Out of the total amount of unnecessary call-outs, 219 were made from health facilities including hospitals and residential care homes but Mr Shaw confirmed these premises were exempt from the new policy and firefighters would still look to attend in the event of an alert but it would depend on the circumstances.

Last month Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed stations in Cannock, Rugeley, Stone, Lichfield and Burton would be affected by £1.1million cuts which would see 22 full-time posts and 21 retained roles scrapped.

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