Fraction of alarms signal fires

FEWER than one in 30 automatic alarms answered by firefighters in Suffolk are to actual incidents, new figures reveal today.And the building with the worst record in the county for false alarms is Ipswich Hospital which saw the number of unwanted calls go up to 128 compared with 92 in 2004/5.

FEWER than one in 30 automatic alarms answered by firefighters in Suffolk are to actual incidents, new figures reveal today.

And the building with the worst record in the county for false alarms is Ipswich Hospital which saw the number of unwanted calls go up to 128 compared with 92 in 2004/5.

The figures are due to be discussed at a meeting of Suffolk County Council's public protection committee on Friday which will be told how the fire authority is hoping to reduce unwanted calls.

During the financial year 2005/6 county fire crews received 3,035 “unwanted fire signals” from automatic alarms - and only 94 calls to actual incidents.

Of these 45 per cent were handled by part-time firefighters, and each callout to them costs an estimated £100.

That means the overall cost of unwanted calls to the fire service is more than £120,000 a year.

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The 55pc of calls dealt with by full-time firefighters are much cheaper because the staff are already being paid.

With the adoption of new standards of fire cover, the number of appliances sent out on automatic calls has been reduced - allowing firefighters to assess whether more are needed once they arrive on the scene.

Jan Rowsell from Ipswich Hospital said the authorities there were trying to work hard to reduce the number of unwanted calls - but all fire alarms on the site went straight through to the force control room.

She said: “If someone burns the toast and sets off the alarm we do try to ring up straight away to tell them not to come out - but when the alarm goes off at the fire control it just says there is a fire at the hospital and we have to be very quick to stop them coming out.

“In newer areas of the hospital we have better equipment that doesn't go off so easily and as things improve around the hospital that kind of thing will be introduced elsewhere.”

1, Ipswich Hospital: 128 calls in 2005/6.

2, Highpoint Prison, near Haverhill: 92 calls.

3, West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds: 54 calls.

4: Greene King Brewery, Bury St Edmunds: 51 calls.

5: Unilever factory, Lowestoft: 43 calls.

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