Plea to fix faulty fire alarm

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 11:57 16/01/2014
Murray Neal
Emma Allen

Complacency fears: Renwick chief fire officer Murray Neal fears a faulty alarm system at Base Woodbourne could stop people reacting to a real fire.

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A faulty alarm system at Base Woodbourne has put extra pressure on Marlborough volunteer firefighters with almost 40 unnecessary callouts since July, including seven in one day.

Renwick chief fire officer Murray Neal said the fault urgently needed to be fixed.

"Having appliances tied up at a false alarm means they are not available if an emergency call comes in," he said.

"For our volunteers, it means valuable time taken away from their homes or jobs."

Since July, the Renwick brigade has attended 22 false alarm callouts while the Blenheim brigade attended 18. In most cases, the Blenheim and Renwick brigades co-responded to incidents at the base.

Mr Neal was concerned frequent false alarms might make people living and working at the base complacent and slow to act in a real emergency, he said.

Blenheim chief fire officer and Marlborough senior fire risk management officer Rob Dalton said he had talked to the alarm agent and stressed the urgency for repairs.

Both Mr Dalton and Mr Neal were worried about the extra workload on firefighters because of the alarm system fault.

A Defence Force spokesman said the air force was working closely with the fire service to fix the fault.

"The automated system was taken offline for testing late last week," he said. "There have been no reported faults since it was reconnected on Saturday afternoon."

Mr Murray said Renwick had been called to a false alarm on Sunday, but it was a different alarm system that caused the problem.

Before July last year, the Defence Force fire crew at Woodbourne responded first to calls at the base.

However, cuts to the service meant on-site firefighters worked only on weekdays from 8am to 5pm, leaving Renwick Volunteer Fire Brigade as the first emergency response outside those hours.

Mr Neal said apart from the false alarms, Renwick and Blenheim firefighters had not seen any difference in the number of incidents they were called to at the base.

"Nothing's really changed," he said. "The only change is Renwick now takes a lead role after hours."

Both Renwick and Blenheim volunteer brigades had always been integral to the crash fire response at Marlborough Airport, as were fire brigades in Kerikeri, Greymouth and Hokitika for their airports, Mr Neal said. "We are prepared and trained for airport emergencies," he said.

The past six callouts to Base Woodbourne took Renwick volunteer firefighters between five minutes and 11 minutes to assemble and get to the base.

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- The Marlborough Express

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