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Home   Gravesend   News   Article

False alarm calls to Kent Fire and Rescue crews run into thousands, costing the county millions of pounds

18 February 2014
by Thom Morris

Nuisance call outs made up more than 40% of the work of firefighters in Gravesham last year, the Messenger can reveal.

The figures are despite a new policy to crack down on wasted trips to commercial automatic alarms.

Last year crews attended 380 false alarms in Gravesham, at a cost of £748,600, and 308 in Dartford (£606,760).

Although that might seem high, progress was made.

It meant a 10% drop in Gravesham and a 14% fall in Dartford since a new system was introduced in 2012, which requires a call from someone at the premises to confirm it is an emergency.

The false alarm figures also include those from mistaken and malicious callers.

In total, Gravesham firefighters went to 873 incidents, which meant false alarms accounted for 43% of them.

In Dartford they attended 817 incidents, 37.7% of which were unnecessary.

Retirement flat block Regents Court, in West Street, Gravesend, was fourth in the top 10 list of properties in Kent that firefighters were called to for false alarms.

Crews were called to the block 22 times last year, equating to £43,340 in wasted time.

A spokesman for Regents Court said: "After some false alarm visits to the estate by the fire service, they advised us of the cause of the problem, and this was rectified at the time."

Kent Fire and Rescue Service does not itemise the cost of sending crews and fire engines to each individual report, but the Department for Communities and Local Government estimates the bill for a false alarm to be £1,970.

A spokesman for Kent Fire and Rescue Service said: “Between January to December 2011, half the incidents we went to were false alarms.

“A lot were caused by automatic fire alarms. At 98% of the calls to these we attended and found there was no fire, and the system had been triggered by something as simple as dust.

“While our fire engines are responding to these, they are not available for real emergencies such as fires and car crashes where people need our help.

“This is why we have a call challenge policy.”

Across Kent there were 5,873 false alarms, with 3,265 reported with good intentions, 2,487 due to faulty equipment and 121 of the reports made deliberately.

The figures were released under a Freedom of Information Act.

The number of times firefighters have attended false alarms year by year.

2009 - 513
2010 - 427
2011 - 454
2012 - 361
2013 - 308

2009 - 494
2010 - 540
2011 - 467
2012 - 426
2013 - 380

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