Greater Manchester fire crews say reduced response to fire alarms threatens firefighter safety and businesses
Greater Manchester fire crews have slammed the introduction of a new policy which would limit the fire service response to automatic fire alarms in business and commercial premises. No fire crews ever go to an alarm they know to be false although most automatic fire alarms turn out to be wrong.
By Greater Manchester’s own figures, at least 60 genuine fires on commercial and business premises – more than one a week – will get a reduced response in the future. These are genuine alarms to real fires and it is these which concern fire crews.
They warn that the public and firefighters will be put at risk because delays of even a few minutes will mean small fires will be allowed to develop into much larger fires. This greatly increases the fire damage and the risk of fire spreading to neighbouring buildings.
Peter Taylor FBU Brigade Secretary said: “The key is reducing the number of false alarms, not opting for a much reduced response to all automatic alarms, at least some of which will be genuine. No one ever knowingly goes out to a false alarm.
“Under the new policy automatic alarms will be checked out by non-fire service personnel who are the designated the “responsible person” for a particular premises. Some of these are likely to be based many, many miles from the site meaning a very long delay before they can get to the premises they are being asked to inspect.
“It is only at that stage – after a long delay – that the Greater Manchester fire service says it will respond. Every large fire starts as a small fire and it will continue to burn until the fire service puts it out.
“Sophisticated fire detection is designed to detect fire in the very earliest stages and sometimes fire cannot be detected simply by walking around the premises. Operational fire crews have years of experience to call on and access to thermal imaging cameras that can detect hot spots behind panelling and ducting that is totally invisible to the naked eye.
“Allowing more than one fire a week on business premises to become a big fire increases risk to the firefighters who do respond. There will be much more fire damage and a much greater likelihood that the premises will become a total loss.
“Business and commercial fire losses are already at record levels and policies like these can only add to those losses and push up insurance premiums. Businesses hit by fires find it very hard to recover and most of them never do, especially small businesses.
“We are not just here to saves lives but to save property and livelihoods because jobs on those premises are lost in the fires as well. All it will take is the loss of one medium sized building and the savings of £2 million to the fire service will have gone up in smoke.
“That may seem like good value for money to a fire service accountant but it make little sense to professional fire crews. Businesses pay local taxes as well and they deserve a service in return, not paying more in local taxes and getting a worse service that threatens their business in return.”