Home Office data shows that the 174 ‘malicious’ calls were among more than 6,000 false alarms – more than a third of all incidents attended by the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service in the year to September 2020.
Most were caused by faulty equipment or the accidental activation of smoke alarms and sprinkler systems while, of the rest, 35% of alarms were raised by people with good intentions.
The National Fire Chiefs Council say false alarms happen approximately every two minutes nationally, and cost services thousands of hours of lost productivity – “time that could be spent on other vital, and often life-saving activities”.
In Tyne and Wear, 40% of all calls attended over 12 months were false alarms.
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NFCC chair, Roy Wilsher, described the figures as shocking and said malicious callers could prevent crews from attending incidents where people were in serious danger.
He added: “People making these reckless calls need to ask themselves what would happen if a member of their family needed emergency assistance and firefighters were attending a malicious call. We need to see this change.”
A Home Office spokesperson warned hoaxers that they could face prosecution, adding: "Malicious false alarms take our firefighters away from front line work, protecting our communities and potentially saving lives.
"They can amount to a criminal offence and we support the prosecution of these incidents where appropriate."