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Bexley businesses and public buildings to be fined by London Fire Brigade for false alarms

PUBLISHED: 10:10 30 December 2013 | UPDATED: 13:18 30 December 2013

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Queen Mary's Hospital could face thousands of pounds in fines from the fire brigade for false alarms under new charges to stop "unnecessary" call outs.

The London Fire Brigade is the first in the country to recover costs from public buildings including schools, student accommodation and airports.

Private homes and care homes will be exempt from the charges of £290 per call for places where there have been 10 or more false alarms in a year.

Hospitals across London cause the highest number of calls – 1,722 in 2012/13 – followed by airports, student halls, colleges and nurses’ and doctors’ accommodation.

Many are automatically generated by alarm systems in the buildings.

If the charges had been in force in the last financial year, the brigade would have made £800,000.

Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, James Cleverly, said “poor management or maintenance” is often at fault.

He added: “This is not a money-making exercise but we are leading the way in recovering our spending on unwanted call outs and educating building managers to properly maintain their fire alarm systems.”

Firefighters were called out to 403 places more than 10 times last financial year and false alarms from automatic systems account for around 40,000 calls every year - a third of all incidents for fire crews in London.

The number has fallen by 15 per cent over the last two years but a spokesman said the reduction is not enough.

He added: “The brigade is also concerned that false fire alarms can cause complacency – when they go off all the time, there can be a tendency for people to ignore them, in the case of a real fire, this could be disastrous.”

A Bexley Council spokesman said alarm systems are maintained according to manufacturers’ guidance and weekly tests prevent most false alarms.

She added: “There should be no need to change our procedures. However, routine checks will be undertaken to ensure appropriate measures are in place so as to ensure future charges are avoided.”

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