False alarm hotspots may face $1000 fee


Southland firefighters have been called to almost 500 false alarms at 16 hotspots in the past five years.

The 16 places where firefighters were most often called to false alarms since 2007-2008 accounted for a total of 498 callouts.

A processing plant at Edendale ranks in the top spot, with a total of 80 false alarm callouts in the past five years.

The fire service declined to name the North Rd business.

Also on the list are schools, a sports complex, a prison and a motel.

Of the 16, more than half - nine - of the addresses are in Invercargill.

Southern fire region fire risk management officer of fire investigations Mike Cahill said there was a standard charge of $1000 plus GST for false alarm callouts, on a "third-strike" basis.

The fire service sent an invoice only if there had been more than two false alarms from the same address in the previous 12-month period, and the charge was set nationally in Wellington - which was where revenue collected ended up, he said.

"It doesn't come locally; it all goes into the big pot."

The New Zealand Fire Service used its discretion when determining whether the owners of a property, except a private residence, would be charged a $1000 fee, plus GST, towards the cost of responding to a false alarm callout, Mr Cahill said.

While there had been 498 false alarm callouts in the south since 2007-2008, 132 of those were hit with the fee.

New Zealand Fire Service Southland area manager Bruce Stubbs said the "not charged" category included the first two alarm calls in a 12-month period, good intent false alarm calls, and those where the owners were actively managing the problem with their alarm system.

There was also a large company that the NZ Fire Service did not charge for false alarms, because they were a very large employer of volunteers, he said.

There were also some false alarm calls that had not been charged for because industrial action affected the paperwork, he said.

"Frequent false alarms can build up complacency among the people in the building, which means they may not take quick action if there is a real fire.

"We use the charge as a way to get building owners to take action to fix their faulty alarm system. Faulty systems also put other members of public at risk, as appliances that are tied up at a false alarm are not available to respond to a real emergency," Mr Stubbs said.

The Southland Times