False alarms costing council
Bugs and dust have cost Wellington ratepayers more than $10,000 in false fire alarm callouts to the Central Park Apartments in the past year.
The number of false callouts has risen noticeably since the upgrade to the Nairn St apartments was completed in October.
In the past three months there have been nine callouts, five of them in December.
A new fire alarm system, installed during the upgrade, has been causing problems.
"During the bedding-in process we've had issues related to the sensitivity of the system," said Wellington City Council manager of city housing Vicki McLaren.
"We have found that things like insects, household dust and construction dust have been triggering the alarms."
Each year the fire service responds to 27,000 false alarm calls nationwide. Most of them were from automatic alarm systems, New Zealand Fire Service spokeswoman Karlum Lattimore said.
"The fire service imposes a charge [$1000] when there are three or more false alarm calls from buildings, not private residences, within a 12-month period," she said.
"That's done to encourage building owners to manage and maintain their alarm systems, so we are not unnecessarily called out. This includes educating their staff or other building occupants and workmen if there are ongoing issues relating to behaviour or poor work practice."
The council is working with the fire service to find a solution to the apartments problem.
"We are implementing a double knock system and are also trialling an insect repellent system," Ms McLaren said.
The double knock system meant two detectors needed to be triggered to set off the alarm, so it was less likely to be set off by bugs or dust.
The council is also developing a fire prevention education programme. The programme will be specific to the Central Park apartments and will educate tenants about what to do in the case of a fire, how to respond to alarms, and evacuation procedures.
Ms McLaren said there were no similar problems at the other council housing complexes. However, some of the sites are still being upgraded.
"We are in the middle of the $400 million housing upgrade programme. As we upgrade more big sites, the lessons from Central Park will be applied," she said.
There have been seven false alarm callouts to other council housing complexes in the past three months.