Unwanted fire calls at five-year high

Monday May 30th 2022


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

One in 20 false call outs attended by firefighters in Midlothian over the last year were sparked by safety tests carried out by firms.

A report on unwanted fire alarm (UFA) call outs in Midlothian saw the number recorded over the last year the highest in five years with 422 incidents.

While the biggest cause was a faulty alarm accounting for nearly a quarter of calls, it was revealed that five percent were caused by companies forgetting to disconnect from the central alert system before testing their alarm, sparking an immediate response.

Andy Anderson, Group Commander for Midlothian told a meeting of Midlothian Police and Fire Rescue Board: “People need to put their system offline before testing otherwise the fire service will mobilise.”

The meeting was told that UFAs were the only area where Scottish Fire Service was not improving ahead of the national picture with 422 calls recorded last year – the highest in five years.

It said 21% of calls were accidental or made with good intentions while only 10% were malicious.

It revealed 13% were caused by dust or contaminants, 11% by people smoking, cooking or burning toast, and 17% were described as “carelessly set off”.

Mr Anderson told the board: “There is a percentage in there which are obviously preventable and we continue to work with these premises to improve the awareness and understanding.”

The Quarter 4 performance report for 2021/22 included overall year on year comparisons with 2017/18.

It showed accidental fires were down with the number of fire casualties down by two thirds from 15 five years ago to just five in the last year.

Deliberate fires had nearly halved over the five years from 412 to 214 with call outs to road traffic accidents and support other emergency service casualties also down.

Only UFAs recorded an increase after falling to just 294 in 2020-2021 when the fist lockdowns were in place.

The report said: “We continue to monitor Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals calls and our Fire Safety Enforcement Officers work closely with premises to reduce further incidents.

“This includes discussing technological, procedural and management solutions in order to prevent future Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals incidents. In Midlothian, we are currently engaging with various premises giving advice to prevent further occurrences.”

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