Hoax calls to the fire service are on decline

EDUCATION is thought to be one of the reasons why hoax calls to Hastings firefighters have decreased by more than a third year on year.

From 2010 to 2011, the total number of malicious calls involving firefighters from Bohemia Road and The Ridge fire stations went down by 36 per cent from 45 in 2010 to 29 in 2011.

The total number of hoax calls dealt with by East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has decreased by a similar percentage, from 239 in 2010 to 154 in 2011.

Station manager of the Arson Incident and Reduction Team, Dan Channon, said: “Education is a key element in combating hoax calls and arson, with our Schools Education Programme offering targeted messages about fire and road safety and the consequences of making hoax calls.

“We also have a motivated team of fire service professionals specialising in helping people who abuse fire and make hoax calls via our Firesetter Invention Scheme.

“We are very pleased that our work with local communities is having such a positive effect in the Hastings area, and will continue to work towards engaging our communities in keeping safe and staying safe.”

However, last year’s 29 hoax calls would have cost the fire authority an estimated £7,250, using the standard scale of £250 per hour up to and including the first hour.

This charge takes into account the salary costs of the firefighters, fuel costs, any stand-by moves necessary, training, replacement of equipment, and wear and tear.

Hastings Police has had a considerably larger volume of hoax calls, with an average of more than 100 such calls a month in both 2010 and 2011, with a massive 199 hoax calls in June last year.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “The number of hoax calls received by Sussex Police varies from year to year and from area to area; in the same way that crime statistics will fluctuate between different parts of the county, so will the number of calls, including those that are hoax, we receive.

“Every hoax call made takes up valuable resources, hindering those who really need help.

“If someone is persistently making false calls and we can trace and locate them, we will take action and prosecute.

“What may seem like harmless fun can, quite literally, be the difference between life and death.”