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False fire alarms a serious safety concern, says city's fire chief

So far this year, city firefighters have responded to 543 false alarms

The Cambridge Fire Department is asking businesses and property owners to help reduce the number of false alarm fire calls to ensure resources are available for real emergencies, reduce city costs and prevent fines from being issued. 

So far in 2021, there has been 543 false fire alarms in multi-unit residential buildings and businesses in Cambridge,

Broken down, 250 alarms were because of a malfunction in the alarm system equipment, 158 were from accidental activation by something other than a person, 16 were for alarms pulled with malicious intent or as a prank, 71 were from alarms pulled in a perceived emergency, and 48 were alarms accidentally activated by a person.

Every false alarm draws multiple emergency vehicles away from real emergencies and can delay the fire department’s response to situations such as fires, vehicle collisions, or medical distress, says a city press release. 

“False fire alarms are a serious safety concern because we respond as if it is a real emergency which makes crews unavailable for true emergency situations,” Cambridge Fire Chief Brian Arnold said in the release. “Having multiple trucks leave their areas make us vulnerable and takes a toll on resources.”

The main causes for false alarms are malfunctioning system and failure to notify the fire department when testing or doing work on the alarm system.

Owners of businesses can prevent false fire alarms by ensuring their fire alarm system is maintained regularly and servicing the equipment as required by the Ontario Fire Code. This includes routine checking, testing, inspection, and maintenance of the fire alarm system by a certified fire alarm technician. 

Building owners should be aware that they could be issued a fine of $1,000 for more than two false alarm responses in a month.

If a fire alarm system is triggered by accident, owners should verify the alarm is accidental and advise the fire department. In these cases, a single truck may still continue to the site to confirm and collect details.