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Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service saw highest rate of false alarm calls in five years in 2020

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The number of false alarms called in to Suffolk Fire and Rescue Services hit a five-year high last year, with 2,445 calls to incidents that did not need assistance in 2020 alone.

This is an increase on the number of false alarms reported five years before in 2015, which amounted to 2,392.

False alarm calls are broken down into three categories, fire alarms due to apparatus, when a human or system error has caused an alarm to be called, good intent false alarms, when someone spotted something they believe to be a fire and called it in when it wasn't in fact a danger, and malicious false alarms, when hoax calls or deliberate smashing of break glass is carried out.

2020 saw the highest number of false alarm calls to the fire service for five years.
2020 saw the highest number of false alarm calls to the fire service for five years.

While 2020 saw the highest overall false alarm calls, only 51 of them were classed as malicious compared to 79 in 2018.

Last year saw the largest number of 'good intent' type calls for five years, with 826 made, 270 of which were to instances of controlled burning and 116 to bonfires.

It also saw a high number of apparatus type calls and automatic fire alarm activations.

Greg Keys, area manager for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “False alarms are the most common incidents that all Fire and Rescue Services attend, but we will always respond accordingly to protect life and property.

“Most false alarms, around two in three, are when a property’s automatic fire alarm (AFA) is activated. This often happens when dust has got into a detector and caused it to operate, or the wrong type of detector is installed in a building, causing it to operate unnecessarily. Our Protection team works with building owners and alarm receiving centres to prevent false alarms happening in the first place, looking at how they can adjust, repair or redesign their fire alarm systems.

“I suspect that we have seen a rise in these AFAs in 2020 as many buildings and offices were unoccupied during the pandemic, and so staff may not have been on-site to immediately turn off the alarms or confirm a false alarm.

“Most other false alarm incidents that we attend are raised with good intention, such as smoke seen by a passer-by which turns out to be a bonfire, or smoke from a car that turns out to be an overheating engine.

“We have seen malicious calls reduce in recent years, but unfortunately we do still receive a very small number of these each year.

"These are when a person may dial 999 and report a house fire that has not happened, or someone deliberately smashes a fire alarm break glass call point for no reason. Calls like these to all emergency services are dangerous and could be putting other lives at risk.”

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk