False fire alarms could cost building owners £1m per year

Public and private sector bodies responsible for large numbers of false fire alarms face fines of more than £1m under new London Fire Brigade proposals.

The capital’s fire authority, LFEPA, is currently consulting on a new draft safety plan which would allow the Brigade to reclaim the costs of attending false alarms. If the draft plan is approved, building owners would be charged £290 for each false alarm.

The Brigade says if the new charges were already in operation, the capital’s hospitals would have paid out almost £700,000 over the past 12 months due to more than 2,600 false alarms. Other top culprits include student halls of residence with 432 false call outs (estimated fines £112,320), airports (246, £63,960), college and universities (201, £52,260) and hotels (167, £43,420).

Fire commissioner Ron Dobson said: “Firefighters ought to be available to attend genuine emergencies or carry out training or community fire safety work, rather than attending thousands of false alarms. Often false alarms are caused by poor management or maintenance of alarm systems.”

The draft safety plan also includes proposals to close axe 12 fire stations and 18 engines.

Critics say recently published figures justify their concerns that the closures would increase response times in some areas.

In Clapham Town the time for the first engine to arrive would increase from 3mins 56s to 7mins 53s, and the second response time from 5mins 7s to 9mins 54s.

Earlier this week, Green party London Assembly Member Darren Johnson claimed: “A delay in response times can literally mean the difference between life and death.”

City Hall, the Fire Brigade and Assembly Members are all urging the public to take part in the consultation which is available online and runs until June 17th.