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This article was reproduced with the kind permission
of the British Broadcasting Corporation



Saturday, 10 November 2007, 14:59 GMT
Fire alarms 'risk system' trial

A tiered risk system of fire crews attending automatic alarms is to be tested in Surrey.

An alarm at premises with a history of false call-outs, or under fire safety enforcement, will only be responded to if a 999 call confirms a fire.

An alert for "general businesses" would see the fire service actively seeking to confirm if there was a blaze or not.

The highest level of risk, for private homes, care homes and hospitals, would have an immediate emergency response.

The trial by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is in response to figures showing a 97% false alarm rate, and only one out of every 200 alarms attended resulting in a fire actually being put out.

Level One - no change, crews sent straight to the scene
Level Two - check made to see if an alarm is false or not, operated from 0700 to 1900
Level Three - no response unless fire confirmed by occupier or other person
Alarms with any element of doubt will default to Level One

The county council said a permanent change of policy to counteract this would need to be consulted on, but a pilot scheme will be implemented on 1 January.

Crews currently attend automatically whenever and wherever a fire alarm goes off, but this has meant "unnecessary high-speed journeys on the public highways... [and] less resource to send to general emergencies".

The county council's Christine Stevens said: "This policy change doesn't mean we will stop attending emergencies - on the contrary it will allow us to attend more emergencies, and fewer false alarms."

A spokeswoman for the Surrey Chambers of Commerce has previously backed the move, hoping it might lead to business owners being more "diligent and vigilant" in maintaining fire alarm systems and always setting them correctly.