Policy change means Northamptonshire firefighters will not respond to automatic fire alarms unless fire is confirmed

Fire at Pury Hill Business Park, Alderton Road, Towcester , Northamptonshire.
Fire at Pury Hill Business Park, Alderton Road, Towcester , Northamptonshire.

Firefighters in Northamptonshire will no longer respond to automatic fire alarms in offices, shops, churches or schools unless a confirmed fire is reported by a person near the premises from April 1.

Northamptonshire County Council has announced that from the start of next month, the county’s fire and rescue service will only automatically respond to automatic fire alarms in domestic premises such as houses or flats, hotels and boarding schools or homes for the elderly, care or nursing homes and hospitals between 8pm to 8am.

Firefighters will also respond if sprinklers are activated and fire alarms at premises deemed as special risk by the fire and rescue service.

All other premises without a sleeping risk, such as offices, shops, factories, warehouses, public buildings, theatres, cinemas, schools, sports grounds, museums and premises used for worship, will only receive a response to an automatic fire alarm following either a confirmed fire being reported at the premises, or a confirmation of signs of fire from a person in the vicinity of the premises.

This amendment will apply regardless of time of day.

The automatic fire alarm call-outs when no action is needed are known as unwanted fire signals and the county council has said its new policy is in line with the incremental approach to unwanted fire signal reduction already taken by the fire and rescue service and by a large number of other fire and rescue services across the UK.

From 2011 to 2014, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service has responded to 789 automatic fire alarms but in 98 per cent (772) of these cases, crews found that there was no fire at the premises.

Cabinet member for public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage said: “Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service cannot continue to send appliances to automatic fire alarms where evidence shows there is no fire.

“False alarms caused by automatic detection systems divert our resources from the people and emergencies which need them the most.”

Fire and rescue services have no legal duty to attend premises because the automatic fire detection system has activated. The duty lies with the person who has responsibility for the premises to investigate their own fire alarm and only call the fire service should signs of fire be confirmed.

For more information on the unwanted fire signals policy, people can contact the fire and rescue service on 01604 797000.