Bid to cut false fire alarms

Consultation is under way about  a new approach to reduce the number of false alarms attended by firefighters in Merseyside.

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MF&RS) introduced the first phase  of the  new risk-based approach in October last year . This involved challenging calls to its Mobilising and Communications Centre, MACC, between 7.30am and 7.30pm, which are received as a result of an Automatic Fire Alarm activation.

If a fire is not confirmed or suspected then instead of sending up to three fire engines under blue lights it sent one fire appliance at normal road speed to educate and inform the responsible persons.

The Service continues to maintain a full emergency response to all single private domestic property , such as single households, and all those where the responsibility for safety of the occupiers rests with the individuals who live there, such as sheltered accommodation and Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO).

Phase two of the risk-based approach,  will see the call challenging extended to the full 24 hour period from November 1, 2013. This means calls from automatic fire alarms will be challenged whatever time they are received by Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, day or night.

Consultation is now taking place on  the next phase of this approach with organisations from across Merseyside being brought together at two key stakeholder events  Responsible persons for buildings including hospitals, council buildings and student accommodation, attended a consultation briefing on the proposed changes at the Merseyside Fire & Rescue service headquarters. with a further briefing taking place with representatives of Alarm Receiving Companies (ARCs).

This consultation was  launched by Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan and the Community Fire Protection team.

Phil Garrigan said: “We are making real progress in tackling false alarms and reducing the number of unwanted calls but we still want to hear your views, ahead of the introduction of phase two of our risk-based approach, in particular, from those deemed as the ‘Responsible Persons’ for buildings under the law.

“We understand this risk-based approach creates challenges for businesses and other building owners but, at a time of reducing resources and budgets, this is about having the resources ready and available for actual emergencies, training and community safety.

“Any Responsible Persons with specific concerns about specific buildings should contact us directly.

“There is no legal requirement for MF&RS to respond to calls originating from automatic systems. However, we have worked with, and continue to work with businesses, responsible persons and alarm receiving and monitoring companies to spread information about the approach which highlights their responsibility.

“Unwanted Fire Signals had increased by 13.7% over the past five years despite numerous strategies implemented by MF&RS to reduce them. In one period of time false alarms accounted for more than 95% of calls to automatic fire alarms.

“The aim of our new approach  is to reduce the number of calls received annually to unwanted false alarms, which cause disruption to premises, disrupt community safety work and training and reduces availability for serious emergencies.

“Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service class any activation of an automatic fire alarm that is not a fire, or where there is no evidence of fire, as unwanted. If anyone sees, hears or smells a fire they should call 999 even if an automatic alarm system has activated.”

There is information on www.merseyfire.gov.uk about the approach, including phase one, phase two and what Responsible Persons need to do to prepare, as well as a special email address AFAEnquiries@merseyfire.gov.ukavailable for views as part of the consultation as well as any questions or to request advice or to ask about any exemptions.
And more information on the approach can be found on
http://www.merseyfire.gov.uk/aspx/pages/protection/automaticFireAlarms.aspx

www.communities.gov.uk/fire/firesafety/firesafetylaw/

Pictured: Phil Garrigan at one of the briefing sessions (Picture: Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service)