Nottinghamshire fire service drops plan to stop responding to automatic hospital alarms

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Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) has decided to halt plans to stop attending automatic hospital alarms.

The service had been considering a policy change which would have meant it no longer attended automatic fire alarms from hospitals between 7am and 7pm unless they are followed up by a 999 call.

Concerns had been raised at a Fire Authority Community Safety meeting in January 2023 that the plans could put lives at risk if they went ahead.

Since then, a review into the plans has taken place.

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Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has dropped plans to stop responding to automatic hospital fire alarms. Photo: OtherNottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has dropped plans to stop responding to automatic hospital fire alarms. Photo: Other
Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has dropped plans to stop responding to automatic hospital fire alarms. Photo: Other

Nottingham University Hospitals Trust’s (NUH) two sites, Nottingham City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre, make up most of the service’s unwanted fire signals.

In 2022-23, the service responded to 2,450 false fire signals overall, which was an eight per cent increase on 2021-22.

A total of 653 of these signals were at non-residential premises, and 365 of them were at hospitals.

The service automatically goes to fire alarm activations for certain buildings including hospitals, nursing homes, sheltered housing, flats and heritage sites.

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It says the vast majority of calls are false alarms which cost money and resources at a time when service budgets are under pressure.

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In January, a report stated hospitals across the city and county account for 10 per cent of all ‘unwanted fire signals’ – these include incidents such as problems with light fittings, microwaves, cotton bud fires and overheated extractor fans.

In a Fire Authority Community Safety Committee meeting on October 13, Damien West, assistant Chief fire officer, said a review into the situation had been carried out.

He said it has been ‘challenging’ to meet the service’s targets of a 10 per cent reduction of unwanted fire signals year on year.

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He said: “We undertook a consultation with representative bodies and contacted hospitals across Nottingham and Nottinghamshire and we commissioned a further data review.

“The amalgamation of those bits of work highlighted that the vast majority of occurrences of unwanted fire signals are isolated to two premises, being the City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre.

“These are disproportionately high in terms of the level of unwanted fire signals that we are attending.

“The review highlighted that a more specific risk based approach, in conjunction with those hospitals, is now a more preferred proposal.

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“We won’t be looking to progress the non attendance at hospitals across the board.

“We will be meeting the management teams at those two hospitals to directly address the issues.

“We are going to more closely monitor the unwanted fire signals that occur at those two premises.

“To give credit to NUH, a lot of effort and investment is going in to try and address it.”

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Coun Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), Independent Alliance leader at County Hall and fire authority member, said: “I think members will take some comfort around the two hospitals.

“We were nervous about the blanket approach, we are keen to see what those solutions are.”

Coun Nick Raine (Lab) added: “I was on the committee when we were concerned about a blanket non-attendance in case there was an incident.

"This is reassuring.”