The President of the Auckland Firefighters Union, Jeff McCulloch said today "The Fire Service is engaging in scaremongering about the costs of attendance at false alarms, they are just paving the way for their plans to reduce the response to central city buildings which have fire protection systems."

McCulloch said, "The figures published in the media today have no bearing on actual costs, and the facts are:

  • The majority of false alarms to commercial buildings are caused by either workmen not isolating the systems, people allowing cooking to get out of hand, or inferior fire alarm installations.
  • About 85% of false alarms occur in buildings covered by professional firefighters and the only additional cost for attendance is the diesel used by the appliances to get to the call. The firefighters are there anyway.
  • The charge for attending is dependant on the number of appliances dispatched to the call, and up till now has allowed 2 false calls in six months.
  • No charge has been made so far, for attendance at private residences, and the Union hopes that this will never be the case.
  • None of the cost of the Fire Service comes from the taxpayer, it all comes from a levy on insurance policies.
  • The government contributes nothing towards the running of the New Zealand Fire Service but it's buildings receive the same standard of response as buildings whose owners pay a levy.
  • The response to buildings in downtown Auckland has been assessed over many years and has, up until now, been considered to be the correct response for the risk in those buildings.”

"The union is well aware of plans by Fire Service senior management to reduce this response to any building in which a sprinkler system is fitted. We are very concerned about this reduction, as it will have a severe effect on property damage from water should a system be activated accidentally." McCulloch said, "at present there are 22 firefighters responded to deal with the situation, after the reductions there will be 8, consequently water damage will be much more severe, as the time taken to locate and deal with the situation will be much greater."

The union finds it deplorable that the fire service, through legislation, requires certain buildings to be fitted with either a fire alarm system or a sprinkler system and then cynically, refuses to send the same number of firefighters as they would to a building without any form of protection. They are in fact saying, you must fit one of these very expensive systems to detect fire, but if it operates, we will not believe that it is giving a genuine call and therefore we will send less firefighters.

Jeff said "The Firefighters Union will not stand idly by while Fire Service management reduces the protection to the citizens of New Zealand who rightfully expect an international standard of response, and do not, and will not get it."

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