False alarm cost hard to measure

The New Zealand Fire Service says the cost of Thursday's spate of false alarms could be counted in the valuable minutes lost in response times if a genuine emergency occurred.

East Otago area commander Laurence Voight said he could not provide a financial cost, after the fire alarms were set off in city buildings.

Dunedin man Timothy Vannisselroy (32) yesterday pleaded guilty in the Dunedin District Court to knowingly giving a false alarm of fire, and is likely to face other charges.

Hundreds of workers spilled on to city streets on Thursday after at least six fire alarms were activated in the Dunedin central business district. Almost 30 firefighters attended the false alarms, including at Cadbury and Radio Otago House in Cumberland St, and Investment House, Otago House and the Public Trust Building in Moray Pl.

Asked about the cost to the Fire Service, Mr Voight said the service's concern was any malicious false alarm tied up resources, sometimes for considerable periods of time.

That meant firefighters and appliances were not immediately available should a genuine emergency occur.

That could cost valuable minutes in response time, as crews from further afield might need to be dispatched instead. It was up to the court to determine what the monetary compensation, if any, would be.

Any malicious false alarms were referred to the police for prosecution.

- david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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