“False alarm!” is a common expression, usually accompanied by a sigh of relief. However, Kingston Fire & Rescue (KFR) wants the community to know that every emergency call has a cost.
“At the end of the day, a false alarm means no injuries or property damage and for that, we are grateful,” says Chief Fire Prevention Officer Ted Posadowski. “But it’s important for the community to know that every call that comes in is treated as an emergency,” he adds.
It’s only when firefighters arrive on scene that they can determine they’re responding to a false alarm. “Responding to false alarms increases the amount of time our crews are on the road, placing them at increased risk and leading to wear and tear on equipment. It can also cause delays responding to other emergencies says Posadowski.
Another side-effect of false alarms is complacency. “Fatalities have been caused by people believing they were hearing ‘just another false alarm’ and failing to evacuate,” says Posadowski.
Recently, through data tracking and analysis, KFR uncovered that false alarms account for approximately 14 per cent of all its calls, averaging to about 500 calls each year. “With the community’s support, we would like to see that number go down,” says Posadowski.
KFR cites several factors that can lead to false alarms. Some of the most common culprits include:
- malfunctioning or ill-placed alarms;
- dust and debris interfering with a device;
- malicious pranksters; and
- fire drills or tests that are not communicated in advance to KFR’s Communication Technicians (the team that take our emergency fire calls).
Every problem has a solution
Posadowski asks the community to consider the following steps to reduce the frequency of false alarms:
For residential homes and apartments:
- ensure your alarms are installed and maintained as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year;
- alarms expire every 10 years and require replacement.
- If monitored as part of an intrusion system have the devices tested annually.
For buildings with fire alarms systems:
- if planning renovations, notify your alarm company;
- prior to pulling a false alarm, think about the impact it will have on your community and bank account (it’s a criminal offense and you may be fined);
- notify KFR’s Communications Centre prior to conducting drills or tests by calling 613-548-4001 ext. 5156.
“On behalf of KFR, I thank you for working with us to reduce false alarms to increase community well-being,” concludes Posadowski.