£3.5M BILL FOR FALSE FIRE ALARMS

... and the city’s schools and hos­pi­tals are the cul­prit

Evening Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY ED­DIE HARBINSON

FALSE fire alarms at the city’s schools, hos­pi­tals and so­cial work build­ings cost the pub­lic al­most £3.5 mil­lion ev­ery year.

Fire crews were called out to al­most 5,500 false alarms across Glas­gow last year – more than a fifth at build­ings run by the coun­cil or health board.

The tax­payer forks out £848 for ev­ery call out, with the money wasted the equiv­a­lent of salaries for 152 new teach­ers, 125 nurses or 116 care work­ers.

FALSE fire alarms call outs are cost­ing educ­tion and med­i­cal servies more than £3.5mil­lion, a fire chief claims.

Glas­gow’s top firefighter has held show­down talks with city chiefs and the NHS amid huge false fire alarm costs.

Scot­tish Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice (SFRS) area com­man­der Jim Hy­mas re­vealed that more than a fifth of the city’s un­wanted fire alarm sig­nals came from Glas­gow City Coun­cil and NHS fa­cil­i­ties.

He called for bet­ter scru­tiny af­ter claim­ing that false alarms cost ed­u­ca­tion and med­i­cal ser­vices more than £3.5m ev­ery year, with tax­pay­ers li­able for £848 for ev­ery call-out.

Mr Hy­mas also re­vealed that 305 city busi­nesses who re­peat­edly have false alarms have been told they’ll only get one fire en­gine ini­tially at­tend­ing their premises – down from the stan­dard three.

But he re­fused to drop the num­ber of fire ap­pli­ances at­tend­ing alarm sig­nals at ed­u­ca­tion, so­cial work and med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties.

Speak­ing at a spe­cial meet­ing of the Safe Glas­gow Group, Mr Hy­mas in­sisted state-of-the-art de­tec­tors which al­low or­gan­i­sa­tions six min­utes to in­ves­ti­gate the causes of fire alarms be­fore mak­ing emer­gency calls were the “sil­ver bul­let”.

He said: “This is one of the wicked prob­lems that doesn’t just face Glas­gow but it’s across the UK.

“When you take up the start-up time, move­ment, in­ves­ti­ga­tion and get­ting peo­ple back into the build­ing and mul­ti­ply it across all in­ci­dents you’re look­ing at 17 days lost to the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and it’s 18 to health.

“We need ro­bust and ef­fec­tive man­age­ment and pro­cesses in those build­ings to en­sure suc­cess in manag­ing un­wanted fire alarm sig­nals.

“Busi­nesses do not have the cash­flow at this time to rip out their old sys­tems.

“But there are things that duty hold­ers can do with­out spend­ing money. They can put in a staged alarm with­out spend­ing money. That’s a sim­ple call to their re­ceiver say­ing they’ve in­ves­ti­gated it and it’s a false alarm. That would slash our mo­bil­i­sa­tions.”

Mr Hy­mas added that cor­rectly in­stalled and main­tained fire alarms have saved thou­sands of live through­out the city.

Last year, fire­fight­ers were called to 5,442 false alarms across the city, with coun­cilowned build­ings and health fa­cil­ity’s mak­ing up 1,275 of those.

It was also re­vealed that in Jan­uary this year, the fire ser­vice was called out seven times in the mid­dle of the night to the city cham­bers af­ter a fault in the sys­tem.

Fire crews were also called to hos­pi­tals such as the Glas­gow Royal In­fir­mary, the New Vic­to­ria and the Queen El­iz­a­beth Hos­pi­tal – which each have up to 50,000 de­tec­tors – on 663 oc­ca­sions.

NHS Greater Glas­gow and Clyde (NHSGCC) ad­mit­ted that most of its call outs came af­ter staff smelled burn­ing but that aerosol use and dust from old build­ings was also found to be trig­ger­ing alarms.

Amanda Parker the NHSGGC’s Cor­po­rate Ser­vice Man­ager said: “A work­ing group has been set up be­tween NHS and SFRS to try and pur­sue a high stan­dard of fire safety and to re­duce UFAS.

“We’re all in agree­ment that this is some­thing we need to re­duce to­gether. We’re ask­ing staff to take five sec­onds be­fore they make toast, spray aerosol or steam clean to as­sess their sur­round­ings and have a look to see if their ac­tions might af­fect the de­tec­tors.”

Jim Brough, se­nior health and safety of­fi­cer at Glas­gow City Coun­cil added: “The vast ma­jor­ity of the prob­lems are within the coun­cil’s ed­u­ca­tion and so­cial work fa­cil­i­ties. It’s a so­ci­etal prob­lem that we’re go­ing to get van­dal­ism and fire in­ci­dents. It’s very hard to con­trol.

“We do our best to man­age it and mon­i­tor it very closely. We’re do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to work as closely with SFRS as pos­si­ble and to try and re­solve these prob­lems.”

The Safe Glas­gow Group agreed to con­tinue work­ing on un­wanted fire alarm sig­nals as a key scru­tiny pri­or­ity.

Area com­man­der Jim Hy­mas re­vealed that more than a fifth of the city’s un­wanted fire alarm sig­nals came from Glas­gow City Coun­cil and NHS fa­cil­i­ties

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