Fewer false fire alarms in 2012

Queenstown firefighters attend a false alarm in 2011.
Queenstown firefighters attend a false alarm in 2011.
Following an increase of false fire alarms in 2011 for Queenstown and Frankton, the fire service is impressed at the ''very pleasing reduction'' in 2012.

New Zealand Fire Service Central and North Otago area manager Keith McIntosh said false alarms reduced from 183 in 2011 to 127 in 2012.

Although the increase in 2011 was not significant, a letter making people aware of the increase and suggestions about how to prevent unnecessary callouts was mailed to Queenstown business owners last April.

The fire service categorises the alarms into four groups: malicious intent, in which alarms are deliberately set off; defective apparatus; accidental; and excess smoke, heat and steam - which includes shower steam and toaster smoke.

Mr McIntosh said he could not attribute the decrease to a single cause.

Speaking of accidental alarms, which are often caused by contractors and cleaners setting off an alarm while working in the area, he said the decrease from 53 to 30 was ''either in response to the letters I've sent out or that there's been less building over the last 12 months''.

Making contractors responsible for the false alarms can help reduce them, as often contractors will try to monitor alarms when work is in progress.

Defective apparatus false alarms came down from 80 in 2010 to 56 in 2011 and 31 in 2012, which showed people were maintaining smoke detectors better, Mr McIntosh said.

The number of malicious alarms increased by just one last year to 17 and these were mostly attributed to ''Queenstown's nightlife''.

A ''slight improvement'' was seen in the number of excess smoke, heat and steam false alarms.

In 2012 there were 49, compared with 58 the previous year.

There was scope to improve this, Mr McIntosh said, which included talking to building owners.

All in all, Mr McIntosh said, ''we are seeing an improvement, but we would like to see them all come down'', since false alarms were ''an absolute pain''.

The cost of a false alarm was $1000, which

was not a revenue-making venture but a deterrent, he said.

''We take risks every time we go out there,'' he said, which included fire officers getting to potential fires at speed, whether they be false or not.

Payments from building owners was mostly automatic when found guilty of a false alarm, but in cases of malicious alarms the fire service relied on the police to recover the money from offenders.