St George's facing heavy fines in 2014 for false fire alarm calls

Wandsworth Guardian: St George's facing heavy fines in 2014 for false fire alarm calls St George's facing heavy fines in 2014 for false fire alarm calls

St George's Hospital could face being fined for repeatedly allowing fire alarms to go off causing vast expense to the London Fire Brigade (LFB).

From January 1, the LFB will be the first fire service in the country to recover costs from buildings like hospitals, airports and student digs with a poor false alarm record.

Bogus fire alarms at St George's, according to new figures, went off 136 times during 2012/2013 - more than any other in the country.

The LFB hopes the charging scheme will encourage those responsible for buildings to improve the maintenance of their fire alarms in order to reduce the number of times they go off unnecessarily.

Time spent at unnecessary calls has a knock-on effect on the amount of time fire crews can spend on training, community safety and could delay attendances at real emergencies.

If charging had been in place last year hospitals alone would have faced a bill of £500,000 for the excessive number of times firefighters were called to a fire alarm sounding.

James Cleverly, chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, said: "The public deserve and expect firefighters to be available to attend genuine emergencies rather than attending thousands of false alarms.

"The vast bulk of automatic fire alarm calls turn out not to be fires, these are often caused by poor management or maintenance of alarm systems.

"This is not a money making exercise but we are leading the way in recovering our spend on unwanted call outs and educating building managers to properly maintain their fire alarm systems."

The Brigade will recover the cost from those responsible for the fire alarm systems where firefighters are called out to false alarms ten times or more in a 12 month period.

Firefighters were called out to 403 locations more than ten times last financial year and had the charge been in place the Brigade would have recovered around £800,000.

False alarms from automatic systems account for around 40,000 call outs every year, making up a third of all incidents for fire crews in London.

Over the last two years there has been a 15 per cent reduction in the number of false alarms at non-residential buildings but the Brigade said that the figures are still too high.

The £290 plus VAT penalty applies to buildings across the capital but not domestic properties or care homes.

As well as being time consuming for firefighters, false alarms are also costly - in London, it is estimated that false alarms cost the Brigade around £37 million each year - and the cost to the UK economy in lost productivity is estimated at around a billion pounds per year.

A spokesman for St George's said: "The trust is currently working with the London Fire Brigade and Fire Industry Association to reduce the incidence of false alarms.

"We are piloting a new approach to provide a case study model that could be used as a exemplar model by other organisations.

"The aim is to reduce the problem through good management practices and more effective monitoring and maintenance of our alarm systems."

Hospital No. of false alarms 2012/13 St. Georges Hospital 136 Kings College Hospital 129 Chase Farm Hospital 128 Royal London Hospital 98 Hillingdon Hospital 94 Ealing Hospital 94 Homerton Hospital 87 Royal Free Hospital 79

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