Stirling Observer

‘Price we pay could be our peace of mind’

As false alert call outs spike, proposals to deal with the problem sparks fears

- KAIYA MARJORIBAN­KS

Peace of mind could be a casualty if suggested changes to how firefighte­rs respond to apparent false alarms go ahead says a Stirling councillor.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service attend almost 28,500 UFAS (unwanted fire alarm signals) across the country every year caused by automatic fire alarms in workplaces.

The service says the figure makes up 31 per cent of all the incidents they attend and has been increasing, with the call outs in 2019/20 up 11 per cent increase on those in 2013/14.

The rise is thought to be down to the number of automatic alarms now in new buildings, advances in technology and the creation of a new single fire service with a standardis­ed response across the country.

In the six months between October 1 last year and March 31 this year, local firefighte­rs attended 243 UFAS in the Stirling area alone.

Of these, 23 were in Stirling University’s halls of residence, 30 in offices and call centres, 14 in hotels, seven in sheltered housing 7 and 15 at primary schools.

SFRS are now consulting on three options, whittled down from 15, which they say would all provide a significan­t reduction in UFAS.

At a meeting of Stirling Council’s public safety committee last week, members said the service had made a case for change.

However, some concerns were still raised.

SFRS group commander for Stirling, Clackmanna­nshire and Fife, Alistair Jupp gave a presentati­on on the options to the committee, saying while the service did not want to “devalue the importance of these life safety systems in any way”, the vast majority of callouts from them were false alarms and of the few that weren’s two-thirds were already out when they arrived.

He added: “Understand­ably we can no longer justify responding to this level of avoidable demand.

“There’s no legal requiremen­t for SFRS to respond to calls originatin­g from an AFA system to establish if there’s a fire. The responsibi­lity rests with the duty holder. Most fire services across the UK require confirmati­on of a fire before they send an appliance.

“The Covid interim response has given us a sound evidence base for permanentl­y changing our response to AFAS.

“The benefits of reducing UFAS include more time for upskilling and training; less impact on key staff; increased prevention work; improved safety; being more agile and resilient; and improved business productivi­ty.

“UFAs divert essential services from real emergencie­s and pose an unnecessar­y road risk. Every year around 57,000 unnecessar­y blue light journeys are made, impacting on firefighte­r and public safety.

“The impact on the environmen­t is also an estimated 575 tonnes of carbon emissions every year - the equivalent of heating 230 homes.

“Since May 2020 we have changed our response to AFAs, reducing our AFA response to one fire applicance. A review found no evidence of any negative impact.

““I can assure you that whatever option is chosen, its implementa­tion will be done through a carefully planned and managed approach.

“If there’s a confirmed fire our response will still be the same as it is now.”

However, Labour councillor Chris Kane said he was “more than a little concerned” about what he had heard.

“I have probably been the most vocal about unwanted fire alarms in this committee and the need to address them,” he added, “but there is no option four here which says you could continue to do what you are doing at the moment.

“One of the things you provide is peace of mind which is incredibly valuable.

“God forbid you get this wrong and there’s a death because the questionin­g hasn’t got it right.

“If you don’t attend and a school burns down it has massive consequenc­es.

“I don’t see how this will reduce unwanted fire alarm signals. It would be interestin­g to hear from the business community and the effect on insurance premiums.

God forbid you get this wrong and there’s a death because the questionin­g hasn’t got it right.

Cllr Chris Kane

“As for environmen­tal impact, everyone wants to minimise that but until someone comes up with electric fire engines that can get to a fire as they do now I’m prepared to put up with that.”

 ??  ?? Call outs The number of call outs for automatic fire alarms is increasing
Call outs The number of call outs for automatic fire alarms is increasing
 ??  ?? Concerns Councillor Chris Kane
Concerns Councillor Chris Kane

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom