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Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service to hold public consultation on proposals to reduce responses to automatic fire alarms

Fire.. (6927260)
Fire.. (6927260)

Fire crews in Suffolk could dramatically reduce the number of automatic fire alarm calls they attend under new plans.

A draft of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s (SFRS) integrated risk management plan for the next three years has been published, ahead of a public consultation being launched.

Around 45 per cent of all calls the service attended in 2017/18 were false alarms, causing a “major impact” on the service, the report said.

Now, the public are being asked whether SFRS should reduce the number of automatic alarms it attends based on the level of risk, and impose tougher sanctions on premises where false alarms are persistent.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service chief officer Mark Hardingham, pictured, said: “The data shows the majority of these callouts are false alarms.

“We are seeking views from the public on different options to inform our review of how we use our resources effectively.”

Currently, if there is a risk of people being asleep in a building, a fire engine will always be sent, but automatic fire alarm calls at commercial and industrial sites would only have a fire engine deployed if a 999 call is also received.

Other areas in the consultation, which is expected to last for 12 weeks, include response to traffic collisions, shift patterns and rescue callouts.

Phil Johnston, chairman of the Suffolk branch of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said the proposals did not inform the public that the service utilised reduced crews, and meant its endeavour to provide an appropriate response was compromised.

“When the public call for a fire engine, they expect it to arrive,” he said. “With a reduced crew, you won’t be able to do that in all circumstances.”

A formal response is set to be written by the FBU outlining its fears.