A consultation on proposals to change the response to workplace automatic fire alarm (AFA) signals has been launched today by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS). These alerts result in more than 28,000 call-outs each year, with only 2% of all incidents resulting in a fire.
The potential options for responding to AFAs are outlined in a consultation document ‘Time for Change: Reducing Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals’ (UFAS) and the public are being encouraged to take part and give their views.
The 12-week consultation will seek views on three proposed options – developed in partnership with staff and stakeholders – to allow the SFRS to use its resources more effectively in future.
Chief Officer Martin Blunden explained why change is needed, saying: ‘We undertake in the region of 57,000 unnecessary blue light journeys every year responding to workplace AFAs that turn out to be false alarms. This brings risks to our crews, other road users and pedestrians as well as having an impact on the environment with an estimated 575 tonnes of carbon emissions produced.
‘In almost all cases they are false alarms and only 2% result in fires, many of which are often extinguished before we arrive. In changing our response to these calls, we can use SFRS resources more effectively, including further improving our response to genuine emergencies. We can also use this time for more training and fire prevention activity, as well as realising the knock-on benefits of improving road safety and reducing our carbon impact.
‘It will also mean less disruption to businesses as they no longer need to wait for us to attend to give the all clear after an AFA.
‘What I also want to be clear on is that there is no change to how we respond to AFAs that are confirmed fires or from private homes, this consultation is about changing our response to workplace AFAs only.’
The consultation brings the SFRS into line with how the majority of UK fire and rescue services respond to workplace AFAs explained Chief Officer Blunden: ‘The legal responsibility for dealing with an AFA alert lies with the duty holder of a property and most UK fire and rescue services now seek confirmation of a fire before attending.
‘Current SFRS practice means that every AFA has an average response of two fire appliances involving at least nine firefighters. Each call takes on average 15 minutes and workplaces and businesses face disruption while firefighters enter the building to confirm on 98% of occasions there is in fact no fire.’
He stressed the scale of the current practice, saying: ‘If we can change how we respond to these alerts, potentially 64,000 hours of staff time can be freed up for other activities, including responding even more quickly to genuine emergencies. That’s why we are consulting with the public and key stakeholders to seek their views on the best way to respond to these types of alerts in future.’
Chief Officer Blunden added: ‘Each of the options will see a significant reduction in the number of UFAS calls we attend. We want to know what you think of our three proposed options so please read the document and have your say on how you think we can best use our resources to keep you, your family and your community even safer.’
The consultation document and survey can be accessed online at www.firescotland.gov.uk/consultations/ufas-consultation.aspx until Monday, 11 October.
A report based on analysis of the consultation responses – including a preferred option – will be considered by the SFRS Board in December 2021. Any changes to service delivery will be implemented from early 2022 in a carefully managed process and in partnership with directly affected stakeholders.