BUSINESS owners in South Tyneside are being warned of a change in the way firefighters respond to fire alarms.
The move by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service comes after figures revealed almost 10 fire engines a day are being sent on call-outs which turn out to be false alarms triggered by an automatic fire alarm system.
From June 1, firefighters will only respond to alarm calls to non-residential properties – shops, offices and other buildings – between 8am and 6pm if a back-up call is received confirming a fire, or if there is a physical sign of a blaze, like the smell of burning.
Between 6pm and 8am an emergency response will be sent as soon as a call is received.
Premises not affected by the change include all private homes, sheltered accommodation schemes and other residential premises like hostels, hotels, care homes, schools, colleges, schools and nurseries, and premises which have successfully applied for an exemption.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s assistant chief fire officer for community safety, Chris Lowther, said: “False alarms are not good for anyone. They cause disruption, with premises having to be evacuated, impact on productivity and can result in lost sales for businesses.
“They also mean that fire crews who attend these false alarms are not available to attend life-threatening incidents, undertake training or working in the community to prevent fires from happening.
“False alarms waste the organisation’s time, firefighters’ time, and could cost lives.”
He added: “This change will enable us to respond according to the risk, using our resources effectively to ensure that those most vulnerable in our communities continue to get the fastest response in a real emergency.
“There is no legal requirement for fire and rescue services to respond to calls from an automatic fire alarm system to find out if there is a fire. Business owners and managers have a range of legal responsibilities they must meet regarding fire safety.
“During the day, most non-residential properties have people who could safely check for signs of a fire, without putting themselves or other people in the building at risk.
“If there is a fire or they suspect there is one, they should contact us.”
Between now and June 2015, fire officers will be implementing a detailed plan, including writing to all businesses/organisations in Tyne and Wear to make them aware of the changes.
For more information about the change, go to www.twfire.gov.uk/firealarms.