Hundreds of malicious false alarm calls to fire services across Yorkshire every year are not only mounting pressure on already stretched services, but are also putting people’s lives at risk with fire chiefs warning just a few seconds delay can prove fatal.
Firefighters across the county were called to 22,712 false alarms during 2018/19, equating to 36 per cent of the total incidents they attended. Of the 22,712 false alarms, 746 were malicious and wasted valuable time and resources.
Fire services have revealed how schools and hospitals are mainly the ‘victims’ of the malicious false alarms due to the high number of patients, pupils and trigger points across many buildings.
In 2018/19 Humberside Fire and Rescue Service were called to a total of 13,981 incidents, of which 4,159 were false alarms and 172 malicious call outs.
From next month, Humberside fire chiefs have revealed the service will change the way it responds to Automatic Fire Alarms (AFAs) in a bid to save resources.
The service is also considering charging businesses for more than three unnecessary call-outs in a 12 month period.
Steve Duffield, Public Safety Group Manager said: “Malicious activation of break glass call points can literally put lives at risk. The thousands of hours spent attending false alarms each year is costly to the service and puts road users and pedestrians at greater risk as engines respond on blue lights.
"Ultimately, tying up our crews at premises where there is no actual fire, puts a strain on the available cover across our area if a genuine emergency call comes in. Even a few seconds delay could prove fatal and we will not hesitate to work with Humberside Police to prosecute those responsible for such a cowardly act.
“Businesses can help themselves by fitting covers to call-points to avoid accidental breaking of the glass, but sadly nothing can really stop those intent on having a building evacuated and fire engines being called. It is beyond comprehension why someone would do it, but we absolutely cannot condone anyone who activates a fire alarm without good reason.”
“Often hospitals and schools are ‘victims’ of malicious false alarms due the high number of patients, pupils and trigger points across many buildings on their sites. We work closely with these types of establishments to look at ways of reducing false alarms whether they be accidental or malicious.”
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is also making changes to how it responds to AFAs at business premises from next year.
In 2018/19 South Yorkshire firefighters were called to a total of 15,601 incidents, of which, 5,007 were false alarms. A total of 125 were malicious.
Area Manager Andrew Strelczenie, said: “The number of hoax calls we receive is thankfully relatively low- but every malicious false alarm potentially puts lives at risk by diverting our resources from other, more serious incidents.
“Other false alarms we attend usually involve automatic alarm systems in commercial buildings. We call on building owners to ensure their alarm systems are tested regularly and maintained properly in order to reduce the number of false alarms firefighters are called out to.”
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service received the most number of malicious false alarm calls out of the four Yorkshire organisations with a total of 348. Firefighters in West Yorkshire were called to a total of 25,672 incidents, of which 10,163 were false alarms.
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service received 101 malicious calls in 2018/19, the lowest in the county, but fire chiefs said anyone who makes a deliberate malicious call could be fined or even sent to prison.
Stuart Simpson, Head of Risk Management said: “Our control room often challenge calls that they believe are malicious and can pass the callers details on to the police.
“Malicious calls are not a laughing matter and can tie up emergency services unnecessarily, stopping them from attending real incidents.
“We’d like to remind people that deliberate malicious calls are illegal and can lead to fines or even imprisonment.”