False alarms reported in the thousands for local fire departments

(WTNH/Bob Wilson)

(WTNH) — Before the lights and sirens go off at the fire department, there’s the call that comes in for service.

“We send a full response until we know otherwise,” said Chief Doug Jackson at the East Haven Fire Department.

Then, the fire trucks and vehicles roll out.

“They (the calls) are an emergency when we get dispatched,” said West Haven Fire Marshal Keith Flood.  “We have to go to these calls.”

And they do go because a quick response saves lives and homes.

But News 8 has learned that thousands of calls that come in are false alarms.

“It could be anything from a bad fire alarm going off or a CO2 going off,” said West Haven Fire Marshal Keith Flood.

“People don’t maintain systems that have connections to the alarm companies,” said Chief Jackson.

It uses valuable resources.

“When we’re going to a false alarm, we’re not available for the real alarms,” said Chief Jackson.

And, in the case of UConn’s fire department, a false alarm call became part of a tragedy.

Police say student, Jeffny Pally was seated against a back bay door of the department.  When the bay door opened for an emergency call, Pally was struck and killed by the exiting vehicle. That call turned out to be a false alarm.

UConn says the circumstances are being investigated.

Out of nearly 3000 calls over the past year, UConn says about 1400 were false alarms.
Most were innocent, an alarm going off from the steam of a shower or the heat of a blow dryer.

It got us looking at how many false calls other departments received. Across the board, fire departments said most false alarms are not intentionally pulled.

New Haven’s Fire Department averages about 20,000 calls a year. For 2016, it had about 1600 false alarms.

Out of 6,500 calls a year for East Haven’s Central Department about 30% or nearly 2000 of those runs were false alarms.

You can’t always help when a fire alarm goes off, but you can help change the response.

“You set off the alarms with smoke from accidental cooking, give us a call,” said Chief Jackson

A department will still check out the call, but they probably will send one truck that will travel with the traffic, not racing to get there with lights and sirens.

To help cut down on false alarms, here are some things that you can do:

If your detectors are connected to an alarm company make sure your batteries are working. Sometimes fire departments will get numerous calls during a power outage. Often it’s due to battery backups not working. If you have a fire alarm system in your home or in a building make sure it’s inspected and tested each year.

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