London Fire Brigade reviews response to false alarms to boost community safety

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London Fire Brigade is launching a consultation aimed at reducing its response to false alarms

In a recent announcement, London Fire Brigade (LFB) has commenced a consultation focused on its response to false alarms.

Automatic fire alarms are devices designed to detect potential fires and notify occupants or connected alarm companies to contact emergency services.

The consultation suggests that during the day, the Brigade might not attend automatic fire alarms in non-residential structures, such as offices or industrial areas, unless there is also a call from an individual confirming the presence of a fire.

Tackling genuine emergencies

London Fire Brigade emphasises their commitment to always respond to 999 calls reporting fires anywhere in London.

Moreover, they will maintain their response to alarms from residential settings, like homes.

Interestingly, less than one percent of automatic fire alarms indicate real fires.

This means that a staggering 99% of them are false alarms, which unduly strain the Brigade’s resources.

Last year, the Brigade responded to approximately 60 false alarms each day from non-residential properties, consuming nearly 23,500 hours of firefighters’ time.

False alarms: Addressing the real impact

With a reduction in attending false alarms, firefighters can allocate more time to fire prevention and community safety enhancement.

Activities they can engage in include fire safety assessments in homes and commercial establishments, and valuable operational training.

Interestingly, all but four fire and rescue services in the UK already implement similar practices.

Considering exemptions in the proposal

However, the Brigade’s proposal mentions they would continue attending automatic alarms in areas where people might be asleep or where hazardous substances are stored.

Significant public buildings like heritage sites would also still receive a response.

Deputy Commissioner Dominic Ellis voiced his views: “We are here to keep London’s communities safe, and we want to do this as effectively as possible.”

“We spend thousands of hours each year addressing false alarms in non-residential buildings.

“Minimising our attendance at these instances will allow us to concentrate on our main goal: community safety. Remember, we will always be there if you call us during an emergency.”

He also expressed the Brigade’s desire to gather feedback from businesses and stakeholders before making a final decision.

Conclusion of the consultation

Feedback from this consultation will shape the Brigade’s strategy regarding automatic fire alarms.

For more details on how to participate in this consultation, interested parties can visit the Brigade’s website.

The deadline for input is set for 25 October 2023.

The main proposal highlights include:

  • LFB might not attend non-residential alarms from 7am to 6pm.
  • Buildings with sleeping risks, such as houses, flats, hospitals, and student accommodations, will still receive emergency responses.
  • High-risk sites with dangerous substances and significant public buildings will also continue getting an emergency response.

Participants in the consultation will be asked a series of questions, including their concerns, suggestions for other exemptions, and ways LFB can assist organisations to prepare for the change.

IFSJ Comment

The move by the London Fire Brigade to reconsider its attendance at false alarms underscores a broader trend in the firefighting community to optimise resources and enhance community safety.

By focusing on genuine emergencies and allocating time to preventive measures, there’s potential for a more efficient and proactive approach to fire safety.

It’s crucial for stakeholders to engage in this consultation to ensure a comprehensive and balanced perspective is adopted.

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