FIRE service chiefs in our region have agreed to pilot a scheme to recover costs from buildings like hospitals, airports and student digs with a poor false alarm record.

It is hoped that the charging scheme will encourage those responsible for buildings to improve the maintenance of their fire alarms in order to reduce the number of times they go off unnecessarily.

Time spent at these unnecessary calls has a knock-on effect on the amount of time fire crews are able to spend on training, community safety, and could delay attendances at real emergencies.

The public deserve and expect firefighters to be available to attend genuine emergencies at all times rather than attending thousands of false alarms.

The vast bulk of automatic fire alarm calls turn out not to be fires, and are very often caused by poor management or maintenance of alarm systems.

This move by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority, not the first fire service in the country to sign up, is not a money making exercise, but is a way to recover the spend on unwanted call outs and educating building managers to properly maintain their fire alarm systems

As well as being time consuming for firefighters, false alarms are also costly. The £39,285 which the authority could have clawed back could go into frontline services, tackling genuine emergencies, which require the use of specialist resources and a priority response.