No More False Alarms after 999 Revolution

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), October 27, 2003 | Go to article overview

No More False Alarms after 999 Revolution


Byline: GARETH HUGHES

ATTENDING regular, repeated false fire alarms could be a thing of the past under wide-ranging changes proposed for the fire service in North Wales.

And fire stations would be manned to match the busiest call out times.

A joint control room could also house all three emergency services in the region -vastly improving liaison.

Today the Fire Authority is expected to approve extensive changes aimed at making best use of resources.

It follows the finding that more people died in house fires in North Wales in 2001, 2002 per head of population, than in any other part of England and Wales.

Crews are called out 3,000 times a-year when they are not needed, often to automatic alarms.

Instead, they could be targeting those most likely to become victims of fire.

The recommendations,drawn up by the executive committee,cover a range of issues which reflect the way that demands on the service -to be known in future as the fire and rescue service -have changed over the years.

Some fire stations, often little more than garages,could become community stations, offering fire prevention advice or even becoming community centres.

At the same time more Young Firefighter Associations should be formed across the region, and community-based fire prevention schemes launched.

Following last winter's firefighters' pay dispute,every fire authority in Wales and England has been instructed to draw up an integrated risk management plan. The North Wales draft proposal,called Having Your Say, will next go out to public consultation.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Paul Claydon said about one- third of the brigade's work arose from false alarms and very often two or more fire engines attended even though no confirmation of fire had been received.

``Because we reliably attend on every occasion, there has been very little motivation for owners of premises to do anything about troublesome fire alarms,''he said.

``While attending these calls the lives of others are potentially put at greater risk because resources are misdirected and it could even be argued that the people at the premises themselves are put at greater risk because they are less likely to react to an alarm signal when it has become such a familiar event.''

Additional payments to retained fire fighters and those from day manned stations cost the North Wales service about pounds 310,000, which, said Mr Claydon,could be better used in protecting people from real risks.

``In future, what will change is that calls will be assessed individually,''he said. ``Where we strongly suspect that a call is yet another false alarm from an automatic fire system with a history of false actuations, we may decide not to attend at all until we have had confirmation that our services are really required.''

In North Wales 42pc of fires are started deliberately,as are 66pc of all vehicle fires.

Using the latest technology and sharing data links it is proposed to identify local ``hot spots'' with the aim of reducing the number of arson cases by 30pc by March, 2009.

``Although arson is often unpredictable, there are certain local signs and patterns which could help us to spot some of the danger signals before a fire is started,''Mr Claydon said.

``We have never said we will not turn out to fires which threaten property or life. We will always do that,but there are some incidents where we really need to consider whether we should attend,''he said.

``There are 3,000 incidents a year when no action is required, so that needs to be examined.''

Another recommendation relates to the working hours of fire fighters at stations manned only during the daytime -Bangor,Caernarfon,Colwyn Bay,Holyhead and Llandudno. …

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