Stop wasting our time, Merton's fire chief warns
Building owners have been urged to stop wasting firefighters’ time with unnecessary callouts caused by inferior alarm systems.
St George’s Hospital was highlighted by the London Fire Brigade as the “biggest culprit” of London's hospitals when it came to false alarms, after it was responsible for 169 calls, along with its surrounding buildings in Tooting.
Also responsible for many false alarms this year is The All England Club, home of Wimbledon tennis (13 so far in 2012, 10 in 2011), and Wimbledon’s greyhound racing stadium in Plough Lane (22 so far in 2012, 10 in 2011).
Darren Munro, Merton’s borough commander, said: “We can’t keep sending our crews out to non-existent fires, particularly when a little extra care and attention from the owners or managers of buildings could solve this problem.
“This is about the Brigade being able to do the job people expect it to - attend real emergencies.
"The management of these alarm systems must improve so that our crews are not sent to needless call outs.”
The London Fire Brigade’s figures showed Mitcham and Wimbledon crews attend two false alarms every day, a reduction of 37 per cent over the last 10 years.
Last year, Merton's crews were called out to 829 false alarms, costing an estimated £700,000.
But one firefighter said it was unfair to single out large premises for having a high number of false alarms, like the All England Club, which has “very up-to-date” alarm systems.
He said: “At Wimbledon tennis they have about 30 different alarm systems so unfortunately they’re just more likely to generate a false alarm, so it’s not really a concern to us.
“The same goes for the dog track. It’s a wooden structure so it’s imperative they take every precaution.
“There are smaller companies who don’t have the right type of alarm or don’t employ overnight staff, and it’s this sort of cutting corners which is more of a problem.”
A spokesman for St George’s Healthcare Trust said the hospital had worked hard to reduce false alarms, which had decreased in the last five years.
He added: “A delayed response to fire alarms has also been implemented in non-clinical areas of the site, which allows staff time to assess whether it is necessary for the LFB to attend.
“We will continue to work with the LFB to drive down the number of false alarms without compromising on the safety of our patients, staff and visitors.”
It has also emerged firefighters across London are set to be asked to take voluntary redundancy as bosses prepare to cut millions from the budget.
Letters seeking expressions of interest in leaving their posts were sent out to all firefighters and non-uniform staff across London last week, as the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) prepared to save £65m over the next two years.
The LFEPA formal proposals will be published on November 15, before undergoing public consultation.
It is understood the job cuts would not lead to the closure of Wimbledon and Mitcham fire stations, but New Malden is in the firing line after being identified as one of the quietest in London.