Concerns over rise in false alarms sparking firefighter call outs in Tyne and Wear

Concerns have been raised over the rising number of automated false alarms firefighters across are called out to.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue HQ
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue HQ

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service chiefs stressed they continue to proactively work with business and residents to help prevent false alarms occurring.

Between April and the end of September firefighters were called out to 837 automated false alarms at non-domestic properties across the region, up from 743 during the period last year.

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Meanwhile there were 1,491 automatic false alarms at domestic properties, up from 1,298 during the six month period in 2021/22.

The figures went before the latest meeting of Tyne and Wear Fire Authority’s policy and performance committee on Monday (November 7), and concerns were raised over the rise by councillors.

Councillor Tom Woodwark, Newcastle City Council representative, said: “It’s an ongoing and seemingly endemic problem.

“I am concerned that it’s red [an increase], it’s been there for a while, and I hear what you’re saying about what we’re doing about it, but it’s still there.”

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Automated false alarms in non-domestic sites were most prominent in education establishments, but this still accounted for just 14% of these incidents.

The main reason for activation was the alarms being faulty, which was the case in 35% of incidents.

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Councillor John Usher, Sunderland City Council representative, said: “There seems to be a lot of faulty units

“Where I see faulty units, that’s not your [the fire service’s] fault, that’s the fault of the businesses.”

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Automated false alarms in domestic properties were most common in purpose built flat blocks, accounting for 38% of reports, while the number one cause was cooking and burnt toast, which led to 44% of the alarm activations.

Peter Heath, deputy chief fire officer, said they have strong engagement with businesses on the issue and they will work with organisations to overcome any challenges they face.

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He also noted while there are positives from more people having smoke alarms in their homes, it can lead to false alerts due to inappropriate placement or cooking.

He said: “We would rather not have any false alarms but I’d still rather be there because there is an alarm.

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“That proactive work is going on all the time and there are things happening and people are constantly tracking it.”

However he reiterated the “absolute responsibility” for ensuring the alarm systems work are the businesses and individuals who “run and manage their property”.

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Lynsey McVay, assistant chief fire officer, stressed they do “call challenge” the automated alarms where possible and ask premises to double check if there is an incident.

She said: “In the automatic fire alarms where there is a life risk, so hospitals, care homes, things like that, we’ll always respond.

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“We’re constantly trying to look for different strategies that will reduce our response [to false alarms] but ultimately we work with the properties.

“Especially if they’re prolific offenders we’ll work with them to drive down calls and to address any issues that are being presented, but it is an ongoing problem.”