Lancashire's firefighters called out to more false alarms than actual fires

Firefighters across the county attended more false alarm incidents than actual fires last year – including 314 callouts deemed ‘malicious’ – new figures show.

By Will Grimond
Friday, 25th March 2022, 11:28 am
Updated Friday, 25th March 2022, 12:32 pm

Home Office data shows Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service responded to 17,894 callouts in the year to September.

Of those, 48% were a result of false alarms, while just 29% were for actual fires.

The false alarms to the service last year included 314 deemed ‘malicious’ – such as fake or hoax calls.

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False alarms to the service last year included 314 deemed ‘malicious’.

Unnecessary callouts are costly and time-consuming for emergency services.

While malicious callers accounted for 5,473 calls to fire services across England last year, the largest proportion of false alarms occurred due to faulty equipment, such as broken fire alarms and smoke detectors.

In Lancashire, 5,303 callouts were made for this reason, accounting for nearly a third of all incidents attended by the area’s firefighters last year.

A further 2,604 false alarm calls were made in good faith - where the public believed that a fire may have genuinely been taking place.

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) said a false alarm is attended to almost every 90 seconds in the UK and can cost up to £450, taking resources away from genuine emergencies and increasing the service's carbon footprint.

Paul McCourt, who leads on tackling unwanted fire alarms at the NFCC, said that while a "considerable reduction has been seen in recent years... more needs to be done to limit the impact these false alarms have."

He said owners of commercial properties, which are to blame for many false alarm callouts, have a "wider social responsibility" to deal with them.

"By ensuring correct and compliant alarm design and maintenance they can help reduce the number of unwanted fire signals," Mr McCourt added.

Some local services charge if they are repeatedly called out for false alarms with bills for the worst offenders running into hundreds of pounds.

The number of callouts for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service stayed largely the same this year, compared to 17,924 in the year to September 2020.

Andy Dark, assistant general secretary at the Fire Brigades Union, says fire brigades need better funding to handle false callouts.

A Home Office spokesperson said the Government has ensured fire departments have "the appropriate resources and funding to do the job.”