False alarm calls putting a strain on Cambridge fire department
There have been 543 calls that turned out to be false alarms at multi-unit residential buildings and businesses in Cambridge so far this year.
That works out to an average of two a day.
“The concern that we have and the concern that the community should have is that when there is a false alarm, it's taking vehicles away from a true emergency,” said Dana Landsborough, the captain public education officer with the Cambridge Fire Department.
The city said of those false alarms the majority - exactly 250 - were equipment malfunctions.
Another 158 were accidents not caused by a person, 16 were due to malicious intent or a prank, 48 calls were accidentally activated by people and 71 alarms were pulled in a perceived emergency.
The cost to the fire department per call depends on how many trucks are dispatched.
“Usually multiple vehicles do respond to these types of fire alarm false alarms,” said Landsborough. “But when we find out it is false, when we are all responding, we do turn vehicles away but due to liability we do still send one vehicle to check.”
According to the city, building owners should know that if there are more than two false alarms in one month, a fine can be issued for a minimum of $1,000.
If an alarm is pulled as a prank, an individual can be charged under the Criminal Code with public mischief.
“It's really important they're only pulled in an actual emergency because residents will get tired of the false alarms and not necessarily evacuate like they're supposed to when they hear the alarms,” Landsborough said.
At Classic Fire and Life Safety, a company that installs alarm systems in the region, Chris Reynolds said it is essential to maintain fire protection systems.
“When it comes to commercial properties, there is the Ontario Fire Code. The Ontario Fire Code has requirements that have to be done. It is at the heart of saving people’s lives,” Reynolds, the director of marketing and communications, said.
In 2019 there were 837 false alarms and in 2020 there were 724.
The fire department hopes by raising awareness about the number of false alarms that they can stop the 2021 numbers from reaching those levels and keep their resources available in the event of an emergency.