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Scottish Fire Service to cut down on false alarm responses

By Gavin Musgrove

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Firefighters will spend more time on keeping people safe after a public consultation backed calls to reduce their attendance at false alarms.

Crews of up to nine were routinely being mobilised in two fire appliances to an average 28,479 false alarms each year – equating to around 57,000 unnecessary blue light journeys.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service recently held a 12-week public consultation which provided communities and partners with three options to safely reduce these numbers.

The consultation identified that most stakeholders supported Option A which means that the SFRS will establish if Automatic Fire Alarms (AFAs) in workplaces have been triggered by an actual fire before sending any appliances.

This change, which will reduce attendance rates by up to 57 per cent, will come into effect in April 2023 and will bring Scotland into line with most other UK Fire and Rescue Services.

Hospitals, residential care homes and sleeping risk premises will remain exempt and appliances will continue to be mobilised automatically to any fire alarm activations within these facilities.

It is anticipated that 37,524 hours could now be released each year for firefighters to enhance their training – and carry out community safety work, including supporting the most vulnerable to stay safe from fires within the home.

SFRS Assistant Chief Officer Stuart Stevens said: “We are grateful to the public and our partners for sharing their views on our proposals.

“False alarms account for almost one third of fire and rescue activity across Scotland. They place a drain on front line services, increase risk to road users and cause interruption to the business sector and communities.

“The advantages of call challenging workplaces to reduce these callouts are clear,” said ACO Stevens.

“Making this change means we can carry out more training, community safety and fire prevention activity, as well as improving road safety and reducing our carbon impact.

“These unnecessary blue light journeys bring risks to our crews, other road users and pedestrians as well as impacting the environment with an estimated 575 tonnes of carbon emissions produced – the equivalent of heating 230 homes a year.

“Businesses will also experience less disruption as they no longer need to wait for us to attend to give the all clear after a false alarm.

“The legal responsibility for dealing with an AFA alert lies with the duty holder of a property and most UK fire and rescue services now seek confirmation of a fire before attending. Now the SFRS is making this change too.”

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