Hospitals top London Fire Brigade’s false alarm call-out list for 2014

Nine out of every ten locations on the London Fire Brigade’s Top Ten list for false alarm call-outs in the capital are hospitals

Nine out of every ten locations on the London Fire Brigade’s Top Ten list for false alarm call-outs in the capital are hospitals

Nine out of every ten locations on London Fire Brigade’s (LFB) Top Ten list for false fire alarm call-outs in the capital are hospitals. The new figures – which refer to false alarms generated from automatic fire alarm and fire detection systems – highlight the fact that more than one third of LFB’s call-outs are to false alarms, equating to one every 15 minutes, with hospitals being the worst culprits.

A year ago, LFB kick-started a policy of recovering £295 for the tenth false alarm attended at the same site within a 12-month period and thereafter for each subsequent false alarm. This has resulted in a reduction of 7.3% on false alarm calls in 2014, but LFB fire chiefs are keen to see even greater improvements.

To this end, they’re now working closely with building owners on improving the reliability of their automatic fire systems. Collaboration with Heathrow Airport’s management team, for example, has borne fruit with a reported reduction in the number of calls by around 70% since April 2013.

Since introducing the financial penalty system, nearly £500,000 has been generated for the LFB (although more than half of the invoices issued still have to be paid).

However, Neil Orbell, Head of Fire Safety, said: “This is not a money-making scheme, and the last organisations we want to charge are hospitals. That being said, we’re called to over 30,000 false alarms every year and some hospitals we go to nearly every week. We want to work with hospital management teams on this issue which is why we will wait until the tenth call before we start to recover our costs. We also work with them to see how they can improve the all-round maintenance and management of their automatic fire alarm systems.”

Orbell added that false alarms are a public safety issue because they ‘can cause complacency’. “When alarm systems sound all the time, there can be a tendency for people to ignore them,” asserted Orbell. “In the case of a real fire, this could be disastrous. Moreover, these false alarms could delay attendances at real emergencies.”

‘Double-knock’ fire alarm systems

A statement issued to ITV News from St George’s Hospital in Tooting, which experienced the highest number of false alarm call-outs last year, said: “Many Hospital Trusts rely on a ‘double-knock’ fire alarm system where a central security office is alerted to the location of an activated fire alarm and assesses the severity before deciding whether to call the fire brigade. Due to the size of our site (which is one of the largest single-site hospitals in the UK), we’ve chosen to operate under an automatic system where the fire brigade is alerted immediately when an alarm is activated. This is a decision based on the safety of patients, staff and visitors to our site.”

The statement continues: “However, we acknowledge that false fire alarms cost money and waste time so we’re currently embarking on a £4 million programme across the next three years to update all 5,500 fire sensors on the site. We continue to work with the London Fire Brigade and the Fire Industry Association (FIA) to reduce the incidence of false alarms on our site.”

Aware of the need for constant reminders around this subject, the FIA has produced an infographic designed to help anyone responsible for fire safety in non-domestic premises. In addition to detailing pertinent facts and figures about false fire alarms, the infographic provides useful information to both the Fire Service and businesses on how to cut false alarm costs.

Top Ten locations for the most false calls in London (2014)

*St Georges Hospital, Tooting: 168

*University College Hospital, Euston Road: 75

*Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield: 66

*University Hospital, Lewisham: 62

*St Mungo’s, Broadway, Camden: 60

*Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich: 60

*Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead: 56

*Homerton University Hospital: 49

*St Helier Hospital, Carshalton: 49

*Hillingdon Hospital: 44

New £7 million LFB Training Centre now open

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has also unveiled its new state-of-the-art £7 million Training Centre in Park Royal, a purpose-built complex designed to replace the Brigade’s former Southwark Training Centre that had been in use since 1878.

Together with the LFB’s other dedicated training facility which opened in Beckton last year, this marks the completion of the biggest modernisation of firefighter training in the capital for over a century.

Each year, around 500 educational courses will be run at the new Training Centre which features a four-storey zero-emission fire house allowing firefighters to carry out fire and breathing apparatus training in a range of challenging real fire scenarios (including simulating fires in houses, commercial buildings and basements).

In addition, there’s a tower for ladder and line rescue training as well as classroom facilities.

The Training Centre covers 4,000 square metres and plays host to 60 square feet of solar panels generating electricity, a green roof with vegetation layers to give insulation, chimneys to provide the building with natural wind ventilation and a system for recycling and reusing water deployed in training exercises.

Speaking about the facility, London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson commented: “Today’s firefighters don’t just fight fires and so need to be skilled in a wide range of disciplines. Along with our other Centre of Excellence in Becktonh, this state-of-the-art venue will bring our training facilities into the 21st Century while providing us with a first class, realistic and safe educational environment that will prepare our staff for any challenges they might face.”

The two venues are provided by the Brigade’s training partner, Babcock International Group, an FIA member. Outsourcing training to a private provider is saving the LFB an estimated £66 million over the life of the contract.

Babcock’s director of training Gordon Reynolds explained: “Park Royal is a truly unique facility with its commitment to the green agenda and a specialist carbonaceous fire house, the only one in the UK to provide a real fire house experience underground.”

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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