England

Fire service false alarm fines 'cut callouts'

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service HQ
Image caption The fire service is striving to cut unnecessary callouts

Fire chiefs in County Durham said crews have had to deal with fewer false alarms since they started charging businesses for unnecessary callouts.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) threatened fines of almost £300 for premises visited three or more times in a year.

In 2019, there was a 15% drop in "unwanted fire signals".

These can be caused by faulty equipment, or factors such as cooking fumes, dust or cigarette smoke.

They were behind 751 callouts to non-domestic properties by CDDFRS in 2017-18 - equivalent to almost 10% of all incidents it attended that year, the Local Democracy Reporting Service reported.

Speaking at a meeting of Durham County Council's Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, chief fire officer Stuart Errington, said solutions were being sought for the worst culprits - NHS properties.

He said: "What we've seen in early stages of the trial was engagement with University Hospital of North Durham (UHND) and then putting in a five-minute delay to check if there has been an unwanted fire signal.

"There's 500 detector heads in the hospital, so they are more likely to get one, but we've had no instances where one turned out to be a fire."

However, this would not work for all premises he said.

"We've told [Durham Cathedral] that as a world heritage asset we don't want them to have a five-minute delay."

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