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143 fire alarms at QMC and Kings Mill responded to by Notts Fire in six months

The fire service is planning to stop attending automatic calls to local hospitals to cut the amount of time wasted by false alarms.

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) automatically goes to fire alarm activations for buildings including hospitals, nursing homes, sheltered housing, flats and heritage sites.

Hospitals across the city and county account for 10 per cent of all ‘unwanted fire signals’ – these include incidents involving light fittings, microwaves, cotton bud fires and overheated extractor fans.

Between April and September 2022, there were 143 callouts to the Queen’s Medical Centre – run by Nottingham University Hospitals – and King’s Mill Hospital – run by Sherwood Forest Hospitals.

The hospitals said in a joint statement that they have “well-tested plans in place” to deal with incidents.

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Of these, 3.5 per cent were found to be fires – none of which had spread.

Unwanted fire signals are automatic fire alarm activations which have been caused by something other than fire.

Now, there are plans for NFRS to stop attending automatic fire alarm calls from hospitals between 7am and 7 pm from April 2023, unless there is a follow-up 999 call.

The move is part of recommendations to achieve the National Fire Chief’s Council target of reducing Unwanted Fire Signals by 10 per cent by 2025.

The fire service said engagement with hospitals will “commence immediately” to ensure they are “prepared for this change”.

NFRS will make a saving of approximately £300 per unwanted fire signal
reduction.

NFRS document stated: “Hospitals are professionally managed premises with good levels of fire protection, with well trained and competent members of staff.

“During waking hours, it is noted that hospitals operate with a sizeable number of staff, therefore in the event of a fire, trained staff are on hand to firstly investigate then call for assistance in a brief period of time.”

As part of the plans to reduce the number of calls, the fire service is also planning to investigate and consult on proposals to introduce charging for persistent offenders.

Over the last five years, unwanted fire signals have accounted for around 35 per cent of all fire incidents attended by NFRS.

In 2021/22, NFRS responded to 3,480 unwanted fire signals, which marks a reduction from 3,793 in 2017/18.

Going to false alarms “does impact on the Service’s ability to respond to other emergencies, it also impacts on the amount of time available to focus on reducing risk through critical prevention and protection work”, NFRS documents stated.

A joint statement from Nottingham University Hospitals and Sherwood Forest Hospitals said: “All our public services have a duty to ensure that their precious resources are used in the most efficient and effective way possible.

“As a Trust, we have well-tested plans in place to deal with a whole range of incidents and eventualities to ensure that patients can continue to access the treatment they need safely – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We are committed to working alongside Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue to fully understand the impact of these proposals and to find a resolution that ensures the safety of the patients and the public that both organisations are proud to serve.”

The fire authority will be asked to support the proposals during a meeting on Friday, January 6.

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