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UFAS consultation update

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Firefighters will spend more time on keeping people safe after a public consultation backed calls to reduce their attendance at false alarms.

Crews of up to nine were routinely being mobilised in two fire appliances to an average 28,479 false alarms each year – equating to around 57,000 unnecessary blue light journeys.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service recently held a 12-week public consultation which provided communities and partners with three options to safely reduce these numbers.

The consultation identified that most stakeholders supported Option A which means that the SFRS will establish if Automatic Fire Alarms (AFAs) in workplaces have been triggered by an actual fire before sending any appliances.

This change, which will reduce attendance rates by up to 57 per cent, will come into effect in April 2023 and will bring Scotland into line with most other UK Fire and Rescue Services.

Hospitals, residential care homes and sleeping risk premises will remain exempt and appliances will continue to be mobilised automatically to any fire alarm activations within these facilities.

It is anticipated that 37,524 hours could now be released each year for firefighters to enhance their training – and carry out community safety work, including supporting the most vulnerable to stay safe from fires within the home.

SFRS Assistant Chief Officer Stuart Stevens said: “We are grateful to the public and our partners for sharing their views on our proposals.

“False alarms account for almost one third of fire and rescue activity across Scotland. They place a drain on front line services, increase risk to road users and cause interruption to the business sector and communities.

“The advantages of call challenging workplaces to reduce these callouts are clear,” said ACO Stevens.

“Making this change means we can carry out more training, community safety and fire prevention activity, as well as improving road safety and reducing our carbon impact.

“These unnecessary blue light journeys bring risks to our crews, other road users and pedestrians as well as impacting the environment with an estimated 575 tonnes of carbon emissions produced – the equivalent of heating 230 homes a year.

“Businesses will also experience less disruption as they no longer need to wait for us to attend to give the all clear after a false alarm.

“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. Now the SFRS is making this change too.”

The Board paper, full consultation report and associated documents can be accessed online at https://www.firescotland.gov.uk/media/2383437/20211216_bsfrs_board_all_papers.pdf

Notes to Editors

Call Challenge explained
One of the best ways that the SFRS can establish whether to respond to a call from an AFA, is by speaking to the person who made the call. This enables Operations Control staff to ask relevant questions of the caller and, if necessary, send the appropriate number of fire appliances to save life and protect property. This is known as ‘call challenge’ and was proposed under Options A & B.
Option A was adopted by the SFRS Board on December 16, 2021. The three options which were consulted on, are;

Option A – Estimated 57% reduction in attendance

  • Call challenge all AFAs from non-domestic premises, unless exempt.
  • No response is mobilised, if questioning confirms there is no fire, or signs of fire.
  • Automatic exemption applied to hospitals, is increased to a pre-determined attendance (PDA) of two appliances regardless time of day and shall be subject to periodic review.
  • Sleeping risk premises are exempt from call challenging and will receive the following immediate response:
    • Residential Care Homes receive a PDA of two fire appliances regardless time of day.
    • All other sleeping risks receive a PDA of one fire appliance between 0700-1800hrs and two fire appliances out-with these hours.

Option B – Estimated 85% reduction in attendance
Our OC staff will call challenge all AFAs from non-domestic premises.

  • No response will be mobilised, if questioning through call challenge confirms there is no fire, or signs of fire.
  • No exemptions to call challenging apply (i.e. all AFA calls received are call challenged, regardless of property type and caller).

Option C – Estimated 71% reduction in attendance
Non-attendance to AFAs from non-domestic premises.

  • Our OC staff will advise the caller that we will not attend unless a back-up 999 call confirming fire, or signs of fire is received.
  • Property types recognised by us as having sleeping provision will be exempt and therefore they will receive the following immediate response to an AFA:
    • Residential Care Homes will receive a PDA of two fire appliances regardless of the time of day
    • All other sleeping risks receive a PDA of one fire appliance between 0700-1800hrs and a PDA of two fire appliances out-with these hours

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