False alarms from Midlothian firefighters hit five-year high

One in 20 false calls attended by Midlothian firefighters in the last year were triggered by safety tests carried out by companies.

A report into unwanted fire alarm (UFA) calls in Midlothian saw the highest number recorded in the past year in five years with 422 incidents.

While the main cause was a faulty alarm accounting for almost a quarter of calls, it was revealed that 5% were due to companies forgetting to log out of the central alerting system before testing their alarm, triggering an immediate response.

READ MORE: More than half of fires in Midlothian did not have working smoke detectors

Andy Anderson, Midlothian Group Commander, told a meeting of the Midlothian Police and Fire Rescue Board: “People need to take their system offline before testing or the fire brigade will rush in.”

The meeting was told UFAs were the only area where the Scottish fire service was not improving ahead of the national table with 422 calls recorded last year – the highest in five years.

He said 21% of calls were accidental or made with good intentions, while only 10% were malicious.

It found 13% was caused by dust or contaminants, 11% by people smoking, cooking or burning toast, and 17% was described as “triggered by negligence”.

Mr Anderson told the council: ‘There is a percentage in there that is obviously preventable and we continue to work with those locals to improve awareness and understanding.’

The fourth quarter performance report for 2021/22 included overall year-over-year comparisons with 2017/18.

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It showed accidental fires were down, with the number of fire victims falling by two-thirds, from 15 five years ago to just five last year.

Deliberate fires have nearly halved in the past five years, from 412 to 214, with traffic accident calls and other emergency service casualties also falling.

Only UFAs saw an increase after falling to just 294 in 2020-21 when the first lockdowns were in place.

The report states: “We continue to monitor unwanted fire alarm calls and our fire safety officers are working closely with locals to reduce further incidents.

“This includes discussing technological, procedural and management solutions to prevent future incidents of unwanted fire alarm signals. In Midlothian we are currently engaging with various locals to provide advice to avoid further occurrences.