Firefighter fears as false alarms dominate calls

Fire alarms in Islington
Image courtesy London Assembly

False alarms are responsible for more than half of all call-outs answered by the firefighters working in Islington’s Junction ward.

That wastes time and could mean too few crews attending real emergencies, according to one veteran member of the London Fire Brigade, who has worked in the ward for over a decade.  He requested anonymity so he could speak to Islington Now freely.

Data from the LFB shows that 54 percent of the 175 calls in Junction so far this year are false alarms, most caused by automatic alarm systems. The fireman said: “You find that you spend all your time trying to find the owners of premises where alarms are going off, when we should be fighting real fires. One day we’ll be left short at a big incident.”

Most of London’s fire services face similar problems, with the majority of calls false alarms. Just 19 percent of Junctions call-outs actually involve fires; and that figure is actually high for London as a whole, where less than 14 percent of all alerts involve fires.

More than a quarter of calls, 27 percent, are classified as “Special Services”, which can range from helping out at road traffic accidents, dealing with spills of dangerous chemicals or rescuing people from lifts when they have become jammed. Our interviewee said: ”Most of us don’t mind specials, I personally think people should better maintain their lifts, but most of them are valid…it’s better people ring than they leave an incident to escalate.”

Islington Now requested comment from the LFB headquarters for this article but the LFB declined.

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Hywel Davies is a TV and radio journalist. He reports, mostly on international affairs, and is an experienced field and show producer and a highly skilled writer/sub-editor. . He has worked for CNN, the BBC, Arise TV, the Phnom Pehn Post, Deutsche Well and Al Jazeera. He’s lived in Zambia, the UK, China, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand and has travelled to more than 25 countries for assignments. The site is arranged in three sections; TV stories, radio pieces and radio discussions. Click on the links at the top of the home to page to see the subdivisions.