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Over 800 false alarms in 2016

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

False alarms have some real costs.

After more than 800 were responded to over the last year, Oshawa Fire Services is reminding residents and building owners that these incidents can come with a much higher price.

In total, local fire crews responded to 829 false alarms in 2016 caused by several common factors including faulty equipment, maintenance and malicious activity. It’s these cases of fire alarms being pulled needlessly that interim fire chief Derrick Clark says the city is trying to key in on, and there are repeat offenders, with fire crews attending some addresses in the city three to four times each week.

“Buildings that we repetitively go to time after time after time, we’re really targeting,” he says.

The problem is clear – by responding to an alarm where there is no real incident, emergency crews are potentially being pulled away from real situations elsewhere.

“That’s the biggest risk to the community at hand,” Clark says.  “When we have a fire (crew) that’s walking around a building looking for a pull station, whether it’s a child has pulled it or the equipment has malfunctioned, two blocks away from the fire hall could be someone having a heart attack or a fire starting in the basement of a house and a timely response is important to us to get there.”

Each year, building owners are permitted two false alarms free of charge. However, after that, each additional false alarm will come with a $459 price tag, which is the current response rate set by the Ministry of Transportation.

In many cases, Clark says the problem comes down to bad equipment, adding that by properly maintaining the emergency systems, it can help alleviate these occurrences.

“We really want people to maintain their properties and maintain their fire equipment and hopefully we can eliminate some of these,” he says.

However, one thing the city does not want is for anyone who thinks there may be an issue to refrain from sounding the alarm.

“What we’re not trying to do here is to discourage anyone, or if you suspect you have a fire or need a fire truck for any reason to not call us. We certainly want to be called and we certainly want to respond right away,” Clark says.

Data for false alarms in previous years was not readily available according to Clark. The data also does not include numbers for carbon monoxide detectors.