Fire Officers arrived at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead 120 times last year only to find out it was a false alarm, according to data from the London Fire Brigade. St George’s University Hospital in Tooting recorded 111 false alarm incidents.
This has been a consistent problem for a number of years. The data shows that in 2013 St George’s had 138 false alarms, rising to 165 in 2014. The Royal Free recorded 137 in 2014 and 141 in 2013. Each time at least 2 fire engines were sent to the hospital.
While these 2 hospitals have the poorest record for bogus alerts others also seem to have a problem. The figures for last year show 63 incidents at the Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, 57 at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, 48 at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield and 46 at University College Hospital on the Euston Road.
London hospitals were responsible for 1,181 false alarms in 2015, and this has been an improvement. In 2014 it was 1,718 incidents and in 2013, 2,407.
The London Fire Brigade charges £295 for each false alarm if there are more than 10 incidents in a year, so hard-pressed hospitals are paying tens of thousands of pounds each year.
False alarms have a huge impact on the costs and resources of the London Fire Brigade. Last year it dealt with 95,540 incidents and nearly half of them were false alarms.
Most are incidents at family homes, followed by sheltered housing and blocks of flats. Offices accounted for 3,428 incidents, or 7%, and shops were to blame for nearly 4%. While hospitals make up just 2.5% of the total number last year it is the repeated call outs that are striking.
The vast majority are triggered by alarm systems and recorded by the London Fire Brigade as AFAs (automated false alarms). Many alarm systems are monitored by the manufacturer or service provider who alert the fire brigade when one goes off. This is often caused by a malfunction.
The London Fire Brigade says that dealing with AFAs reduces its capacity to deal with real emergencies and can interrupt training or community safety work.