The government has brought forward new regulations which will allow fire services to charge companies for attending persistent false alarm call outs.
Under the coalition’s Localism Act, Fire and Rescue Authorities will be given the right consider charging for attendance at false fire alarms which have been set off by malfunctioning or “misinstalled” warning equipment.
This could prove costly for events such as the false alarm at the Carnarvon Arms hotel where the cast of Downton Abbey were disturbed in the early hours by a false alarm caused by cigarette smoke.
It was initially expected that the new order would not come into effect until April 2012 but the government has confirmed that Fire and Rescue Authorities in England will immediately have the right to go out to consultation to consider charging for attendance at certain types of false alarms.
However, fire authorities will still not be able to charge for a number of core functions such as providing emergency medical assistance.
This new legislation aims to encourage UK businesses to regularly maintain their fire alarms and reduce the cost and time lost by fire services due to false alarms.
Graham Ellicott, chief executive of the Fire Industry Association, labelled the new regulations as “ill-conceived” as they could encourage firms to turn off fire alarm systems in order to avoid being charged and therefore put “lives, property and jobs” at risk.
“It is also not clear who will be responsible for paying the bill; The Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) or the owner of the building? If the ARC’s start receiving bills of this nature, then it is likely that they’ll disconnect and walk away,” he said.
“Charges should be fair and transparent but should fall under the responsibility of the Responsible Person to encourage them to find a solution to the false alarm problem at their premises. Although the FIA believes that working with the Responsible Person to reduce false alarms is by far the best option.”
The Welsh Assembly government has decided that Welsh fire and rescue authorities will not have access to the power until April.