False alarms at Renfrewshire workplaces have cost firefighters half a million in three months

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False alarms at Renfrewshire workplaces cost firefighters more than half a million pounds in the last quarter of last year, when they soared by nearly a third.

According to a report on activity from the beginning of October to the end of December, unwanted fire alarm signals (UFAS) increased by 29% compared to the same three-month period in 2020, with 274 recorded.

It was the highest level reported for the period in the last five years and cost the service £539,780.

Most of the false alarms came from high schools, hotels, warehouses, hospitals and care homes and more than a fifth came from the Paisley Northwest area.

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These types of premises normally have an automated fire detection system to provide early warning of a fire, but the vast majority of missed signals are false, resulting in crews being called out unnecessarily.

However, it is hoped that the cost can be significantly reduced in the future when changes take place next year for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).

After extensive consultation with the public, the service said that from April 2023 it will establish whether an automatic alarm has been triggered by an actual fire before any devices are dispatched.

Area Commander David McCarrey, Renfrewshire’s local senior officer, said this should give the service more time to carry out other important activities such as training and improving road safety.

He said: “False alarms are an unnecessary drain on our resources and pose an undue risk to our firefighters and the public from devices responding to these calls in blue light conditions.

“That’s why we recently held a public consultation which offered Scots three options to safely reduce these numbers.

“The consultation identified most stakeholders in favor of Option A, which means that the SFRS will establish whether automatic fire alarms in workplaces have been triggered by an actual fire before dispatching devices.

“This change will reduce attendance rates across Scotland by up to 57 per cent.

“This change means we can carry out more training, community safety and fire prevention activities, as well as improving road safety and reducing our carbon impact.

“Businesses will also experience less disruption as they no longer need to wait for us to be there to give the go-ahead after a false alarm.”

The report is due to be discussed by Renfrewshire Council’s Police and Fire Oversight Sub-Committee next week.

The SFRS says unnecessary blue-light trips produce 575 tonnes of carbon emissions, the equivalent of heating 230 homes a year.

Hospitals, nursing homes and premises at risk of sleeping will remain exempt from the change in response in April and crews will continue to be sent automatically to these locations if an alarm is activated.

Overall, false alarms in Renfrewshire – which also include those from homes and those activated with good intention – increased by 19% between October and December compared to the previous year with 476 recorded.

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