More than 100 hoax callouts for South Yorkshire’s firefighters last year

South Yorkshire's firefighters attended thousands of false alarm incidents last year with more than 100 caused by hoax calls, new figures show.

Friday, 25th March 2022, 7:30 am

Home Office data shows South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service responded to 12,878 call-outs in the year to September.

Of those, more than two in five were a result of false alarms, including 101 deemed ‘malicious’ – such as fake or hoax calls.

Unnecessary callouts can be costly and time-consuming for emergency services.

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In South Yorkshire, 1,505 callouts were due to faulty equipment

While malicious callers accounted for 5,473 calls to fire services across England last year, the largest proportion of false alarms occurred due to faulty equipment, such as broken fire alarms and smoke detectors.

In South Yorkshire, 1,505 callouts were made for this reason, accounting for 150,500 per cent of all incidents attended by the area’s firefighters last year.

A further 1,936 false-alarm calls were made in good faith – where the public believed that a fire may have genuinely been taking place.

The National Fire Chiefs Council said a false alarm is attended to almost every 90 seconds in the UK and can cost up to £450, taking resources away from genuine emergencies and increasing the service's carbon footprint.

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Paul McCourt, who leads on tackling unwanted fire alarms at the NFCC, said that while a "considerable reduction has been seen in recent years... More needs to be done to limit the impact these false alarms have."

He said owners of commercial properties, which are to blame for many false alarm callouts, have a "wider social responsibility" to deal with them.

"By ensuring correct and compliant alarm design and maintenance they can help reduce the number of unwanted fire signals." Mr McCourt added.

Some local services charge if they are repeatedly called out for false alarms — even if they are the result of equipment failure — with bills for the worst offenders running into hundreds of pounds.

The number of callouts for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service increased two per cent this year, compared to 12,624 in the year to September 2020.

Meanwhile, 49 per cent of all incidents attended by South Yorkshire firefighters were for the purpose of dealing with an actual fire.

Across England, fire services also saw a decrease in the number of incidents they attended - there were 537,039 callouts in the 12 months to September 2021, a slight drop on the 539,418 made the previous year.

Andy Dark, assistant general secretary at the Fire Brigades Union, which represents firefighters, says that fire brigades need better funding to handle false callouts.

He said: “It is vital that fire and rescue services have enough resources to deal with all callouts – even where later down the line it is found that it was a false alarm.”

Mr Dark added that cuts to staff numbers and equipment since 2010, increasing response times and fewer crews being sent to fires have made dealing with actual fires more difficult.

A Home Office spokesperson said the Government has ensured that fire departments have "the appropriate resources and funding to do the job."

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.