£3.5M BILL FOR FALSE FIRE ALARMS
... and the city’s schools and hospitals are the culprit
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