The Fire Brigades Union fears safety will be put at risk by North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s (NYFRS) decision not to attend all automatic fire alarms.
From April 1 the service will not attend automatic fire alarms between 8am and 6pm at premises where people do not sleep, unless a fire has been confirmed.
NYFRS insists the changes are to reduce the number of false alarms it attends but the The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is concerned.
North Yorkshire FBU brigade secretary Steve Howley said: “We have some serious concerns. This measure, when you combine it with some of the potential cuts being proposed within the fire cover review which we are consulting on with management, will have a significant impact on public and firefighter safety in North Yorkshire. That’s very worrying for us. This comes at a time when the North Yorkshire Fire Authority has just voted to increase Council Tax by 1.99 per cent. Yet we are seeing proposals for reductions in service right across the board.”
Mr Howley said continued education would be a “better way” of reducing the number of false alarms through automatic fire alarms.
“Not attending, is in our eyes, an attempt to mask the problem, with no real attempt at solving it,” he added.
The move is among several changes which come into effect next month. NYFRS will still attend automatic fire alarms outside the hours of 8am and 6pm. The alarms provide an early warning of a possible fire enabling buildings to be evacuated.
NYFRS says it is alerted to a large number of false alarms every year and that “responding to all these alarms is a huge waste of resources.” It will send one fire engine to attend automatic fire alarms at premises where people sleep and some other higher risk premises, such as significant heritage site and sites with high risk manufacturing processes or storage, at all times.
Firefighters may not attend specific premises where there are repeated false alarms from automatic fire alarms and where the causes of these are not being addressed. Alternatively, and with the agreement of the owner or occupier, an attendance may still be made but a charge may be levied.
Firefighters will still attend automatic fire alarms at domestic premises and all incidents where a fire has been confirmed.
The service is expected to save £2,500,000 between 2013/14 and 2016/17. Savings against this target identified by the end of 2015/16 will be £1,589,000.
But Peter Hudson, NYFRS group manager, head of prevention and protection, insisted the move was not financially driven and that safety will not be put at risk.
Mr Hudson said: “Between 95 and 98 per cent of those automatic fire alarms for North Yorkshire are false alarms. It is not about cuts. It’s about providing a better service and being able to use those people - instead of looking at something that is not a fire having them available.
“Clearly it will save money because we will not be turning out to automatic fire alarms but that’s not the driving force.”
West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service has already made the same changes.
Humberside Fire and Rescue Service said it has no plan to review its policy in the immediate future. As a pre-determined attendance, they send one engine to all automatic fire alarms (the number of engine may increase depending on the type of premises.)