Jordan Bond is a reporter for NZME's Local Network.

False alarms rack up six-figure bill

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The Kaitaia Fire Brigade dispatched two crews to the town's old Pak 'N Save supermarket after the fire alarm activated last August. It was a false alarm.
The Kaitaia Fire Brigade dispatched two crews to the town's old Pak 'N Save supermarket after the fire alarm activated last August. It was a false alarm.

Northland residents and businesses were billed almost $170,000 over the past five years for calling the Fire Service when there was no emergency.

Fire Service figures provided to the Northern Advocate showed $169,050 was charged to building owners, businesses and individuals over the past five years for false alarm calls. Last year $25,300 was charged.

The Fire Service could charge $1150 when called out when "there was no genuine fire or other emergency requiring intervention" - however, it was only charged after the third false alarm call in 12 months.

The service made clear it would not discourage genuine calls for assistance. For these purposes, a "good intent" false alarm call - when a person had a well-founded belief a fire was occurring, despite there being no fire - was also not charged. Last year, there were 5924 good intent calls - 8 per cent of callouts.

Fire Service national risk management adviser Todd O'Donoghue said false alarms were time-consuming, resource-heavy and dangerous.

"False alarms calls have a huge effect on our resources," he said.

"Also, every time we respond under lights and sirens for a false alarm, there are risks for our firefighters and the community when we're responding with urgency on the road."

Mr O'Donoghue said a false alarm call in smaller cities and towns where brigades were volunteer-run could pull people out of work for no reason.

He said the charges shouldn't be considered fines but were an incentive to reduce false calls. He said when a building owner found the cause of the false alarm and fixed it, the Fire Service often wouldn't charge for earlier false callouts.

"It's not about us making money from false alarms. It's more an incentive to make them pay for any repairs and maintenance that they need doing to prevent false alarms."

- Northern Advocate

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