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Effort to reduce false alarms
An 18.5 per cent spike in the number of false alarms has prompted CFA to launch a campaign to educate businesses and residents of Greater Geelong.
Last year Geelong City firefighters responded to 940 calls which turned out to be false alarms, almost half of all calls outs by the brigade.
Disturbingly, over the past two years critical lifesaving emergency service resources have been unnecessarily tied up responding to 127 hoax calls or malicious false activation of alarms.
CFA District 7 Operations Manager Gerry Verdoorn said while many false alarms were unavoidable, a high percentage could have been prevented by routine maintenance of alarms.
“Last year, almost every second time fire trucks rolled out of Geelong City Fire Station was for false alarms, an increase of 147 in 12 months,” Mr Verdoorn said.
“Most were for fire alarms activating unnecessarily at businesses and offices in Geelong, costing CFA hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. It’s vital that fire protection systems are well maintained and regularly checked.”
Mr Verdoorn said CFA was working hard with businesses to upgrade or better maintain alarm systems to bring down the number of unnecessary callouts by Geelong City and surrounding brigades.
“Businesses could face significant charges when CFA responds to a false alarm. We’d rather see that money invested in upgrading or better maintaining existing fire alarm systems.”
However, Mr Verdoorn emphasised the charges would not apply to community members who call Triple Zero with a genuine belief there is an emergency.
The number of false alarm call outs was almost three times the next highest category of call outs which included bin and car fires.
Structure fires in Geelong remained relatively steady (68 in 2012/13, compared with 64 in 2011/12), while the brigade saw a sharp drop in vehicle accident responses (45 in 2012/13 compared with 68 in 2011/12), and a modest rise in hazardous materials call outs (73 in 2012/13, compared with 59 the previous year).
Mr Verdoorn said he was disappointed at the number of malicious hoax calls to Triple Zero and warned CFA and Victoria Police would ensure the offenders faced the full force of the law.
Just over a week ago, dozens of emergency services personnel, including the Police Airwing and seven CFA crews (including the Geelong City Rescue unit), spent several hours searching for a stricken motorist at Bells Beach following a call to Triple Zero.
The call turned out to be a hoax, and Victoria Police is investigating.
“It beggars belief that anyone would risk the safety of the community by deliberately and maliciously tying up emergency services resources. Making a hoax Triple 0 call or deliberately activating an alarm
without reason could result in heavy fines and even jail,” he said.