Automatic fire alarm owners could face £1m bill

London fire chiefs have warned some of the worst culprits for false automatic fire alarms – including universities and hospitals – that they could face a bill for over £1 million under new rules.

London Fire Brigade is considering a plan to charge building owners and managers of premises at least £290 per fire engine for any false alarms they attend.

This charge would only be triggered if fire fighters are called to premises more than ten times in a 12-month period, giving building owners a chance to find any recurring problems that are causing the alarms.

London Fire Brigade is taking a different approach to other fire and rescue services who have one-by-one been declaring that they will no longer attend automatic fire alarms until someone has visually confirmed a fire.

Fire crews in London receive around 40,000 false alarms call outs each year of which 28,000 are non-domestic properties. Hospitals and universities have been singled out as the worst culprits.

Currently there are 403 buildings in London that have had a call out more than ten times in the past 12 months. If each of these was charged £290 for each of those call outs that would add up to a total fine of almost £1.2m.

False alarms cost the Brigade an estimated £37m a year at present and nationally the cost to the UK economy in lost productivity is estimated at around £1 billion a year.

The consultation on the charging is art of the Brigade’s Integrated Risk Management Plan, also known as the London Safety Plan, which sets out how LFB will work over the next three years.

Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, James Cleverly, said:

“A fire engine is called out to a false alarm from an automatic system every 12 minutes in London, which is an absurd waste of time, money and resources, especially in this time of financial uncertainty.

“Fire-fighters ought to be available to attend genuine emergencies or carry out training or community fire safety work, rather than attending thousands of false alarms.

“Often false alarms are caused by poor management or maintenance of alarm systems. Our proposals to charge should send a clear message that building owners need to sort their fire alarms out or face hefty charges.”