Royal Free fined £13,500 as one of London’s worst false fire alarm offenders

PUBLISHED: 15:17 10 February 2015 | UPDATED: 16:24 10 February 2015

Firefighters were called just after 11am this morning

Firefighters were called just after 11am this morning


The Royal Free has been listed as one of the worst offenders for false fire alarms in London – a problem that has led the hospital to being fined £13,500.

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) published yesterday a list naming and shaming the top 10 worst offending buildings in the capital.

The Royal Free Hospital in Pond Street, Hampstead, featured seventh on the list with 56 false call-outs in 2014.

The worst offender was St Georges Hospital in Tooting with 168.

The LFB said over a third of its call outs are now to false alarms, with hospitals amongst the worst offenders. This equates to a false alarm every 15 minutes in London, wasting firefighters’ time.

Last January, the LFB began recovering £295 for the tenth false alarm attended at the same site within a 12 month period and for all subsequent false alarm call outs.

A bill of £499,446 has been racked up. Over half of the invoices (53 per cent) issued have not yet been paid.

Neil Orbell, head of fire safety at LFB, said: “This is not a money making scheme and the last organisations we want to charge are hospitals.

“However, we are called to over 30,000 false alarms every year and some hospitals we go to nearly every week.

“We want to work with hospitals on this issue which is why we will wait until the tenth call before we start to recover our costs.

“We also work with them to see how they can improve the maintenance and management of their automatic fire alarm systems.

“False alarms are a public safety issue as they can cause complacency.

“When they go off all the time, there can be a tendency for people to ignore them. In the case of a real fire, this could be disastrous. “Moreover, they could delay attendances at real emergencies.”

The LFB said the majority of false alarms are caused by faulty or badly maintained systems or things like burnt toast, steam or dust.

A spokesman for the Royal Free said: “The Royal Free Hospital has worked with the London Fire Brigade to develop and implement a strategy aimed at reducing the number of unwanted fire signals while maintaining a safe environment for patients, staff and visitors.

“Since this strategy was launched in September 2014 the Royal Free has seen a significant reduction in the number of false alarms compared to the same period the previous year.

“The Royal Free London NHS Trust has a duty to maintain a safe environment for patients, staff and visitors alike, protecting all from the risk of fire.

“During 2015 we will continue to work with the London Fire Brigade to reduce the number of false alarms while maintaining our high safety standards.”

The top ten offending buildings in London for 2014 were:

1. St Georges Hospital, Tooting (168)

2. University College Hospital, Euston Rd (75)

3. Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield (66) NB

4. University Hospital Lewisham (62)

5. St Mungo’s Broadway Camden (60)

6. Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich (60)

7. Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead (56)

8. Homerton University Hospital (49)

9. St Helier Hospital, Carshalton (49)

10. Hillingdon Hospital (44)

NB - This is the figure for the entire Chase Farm site, which includes buildings from other trusts and private clinics. Chase Farm Hospital itself was responsible for just six false fire alarms in 2014, its trust said.

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