Half of fire alarms are false alarms

Municipal fire services in the Netherlands received more than 92 thousand fire alarms in 2001, just as many as in record year 1996. However, at 47 thousand the number of actual fires in 2001 was significantly lower than the 55 thousand in 1996.

Fire alarms received by fire services

One quarter more false alarms

The share of false alarms rose by a quarter in the period 1996-2001, to account for half of all fire alarms. In 2001 there were 46 thousand false alarms. Fire alarm systems, in particular, accounted for a large part of the increase in the number of false fire alarms: 37 thousand in 2001 compared with 27 thousand in 1996.

On average in recent years, only six out of every one hundred alarms reported through fire alarm systems actually turn out to be a fire. The fire services answer more than eight out of ten of these erroneous alarms. Relatively many false alarms are in the health care sector.

More fire alarms in the four large cities

In 2001 the number of fire alarms in the four large cities was about fifty percent higher than the national average, at nine per thousand inhabitants. One in five fires are in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague or Utrecht, four fires per thousand inhabitants compared with three on average in the whole country.

Indoor fires in particular are more common in the four large cities; there are nearly twice as many indoor fires per thousand inhabitants in the large cities as in the whole of the Netherlands: 1.7 compared with 0.9

Deviations in fire alarms and fires from the national average, 2001 (per 1,000 inhabitants)

Strong increase in call-out times

The time between the alarm and the moment the first fire engine leaves the fire station has increased substantially since 1990. In 1990 the first vehicle left the station within four minutes for three-quarters of all alarms. In 2001 this rate had fallen to only half of all alarms. As the journey times did not change much in this period, the call-out times also increased. For more than one quarter of fires it took ten minutes before the fire services arrived at the scene of the fire.

Wim Vissers