False fire alarm bill to hit businesses

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Businesses who call out firefighters to more than three false alarms a year will be hit with a bill for hundreds of pounds.

The new charges are being rolled out across West Yorkshire after figures revealed fire services are called out to 3,600 false calls a year.

Business owners will be forced to pay £350 from April 1 next year if they report more than three false alarms in a 12 year period.

Chris Kemp, fire protection manager, said: “The introduction of a charging scheme is an additional tool which will encourage businesses to manage their fire alarms appropriately in order to reduce the number of false alarms they generate.

“It should not be viewed as an income generation stream but a process to enable us to recover costs where we have committed resources which, had the call not been received, would have been available for other real emergencies.”

The main causes of false alarms include contamination of the detector by insects and dust, using the incorrect type of detector, failing to clear and service detectors, installing it in areas which experience excessive heating or ventilation, human activity, and failing to notify the alarm monitoring centre when the system is being tested.

Under the new scheme the fourth automatic fire alarm incident in a 12 month period will trigger a charge to the person responsible for the premises.

Once charged, all subsequent attendances will generate a charge until the number of attendances reduces to three or less within a 12 month period.

Mr Kemp added: “It is a real fact that persistent false alarms instil complacency which in turn puts people at risk. It is our aim, through the introduction of this charging scheme, to ensure that we make the communities of West Yorkshire safer by reducing the number of false alarms.”

West Yorkshire Fire Authority carried out a three month consultation process earlier this year which targeted nearly 2,000 businesses across the county.

Of the 199 responses, the survey showed that 86 per cent of respondents said should the policy be introduced, the organisation responsible for the automatic fire alarm should pay the charge.