29 August 2014

Details of West Midlands Fire Service’s charges for non-emergency calls have been published after the BBC made a Freedom of Information request.

Since the charges were introduced in May 2012, the service has charged for 106 non-emergency callouts, totalling £57,355.

This figure represents only 2.9% of the non-emergencies the service attended.

Head of Emergency Response Simon Shilton told the BBC: “We will only charge if we deem our resources could be better used elsewhere.

"We are there to provide a service to the community. We determine whether to charge if there was no risk to life or property.”

He added: ”We always notify the occupier if there is the potential to charge for the service and proceed if they agree."

West Midlands Fire Service currently charges £426 including VAT, per fire appliance per hour.

The most expensive incident was in December 2013, when the service charged Bournville College of Further Education £3045 for making a structure safe.

The most common type of chargeable incident was effecting entry/exit (1129 incidents), followed by water incidents (727) and lift releases (479).

FIA Chief Executive Officer Graham Ellicott commented: “Under the Localism Act, after local consultation, a Fire and Rescue Authority has the right to charge for attendance at false alarms.

“To date WMFS apparently has not exercised this right but it does have a fairly stringent non-attendance policy to automatic fire alarm signals to buildings that do not contain a specified life risk. If you have a business in the WMFS area and want to learn more about this policy, then click here.”

Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.