Regina Fire and Protective Services is sounding an alarm about a recent jump in the amount of nuisance calls coming in, taking firefighters out of position and causing wear and tear on vehicles and equipment.
The month of June had 107 false calls related to this issue – a 121 per cent increase from 2021 – and the month of July is on pace to be 200 per cent more calls overall than last year’s numbers.
These alarm systems will send out an automatic call to 911, which will send fire department. Fire trucks and firefighters will arrive at the location to often puzzled residents.
Fire Marshall Randy Ryba said these calls can take the fire department between 15 minutes to an hour to respond to the false alarm and return to the station.
“So not only does it take us out of position to answer real emergencies, every time we leave the hall, it puts our people and the citizens at risk. There could be collisions, slips and falls for firefighters, entering or exiting the vehicle,” Ryba said.
They said the new systems are often not meeting the requirements of the Regina Fire Bylaw for interconnected, hardwired smoke alarms in rental properties.
“Our concern is the systems sometimes are not working as designed,” Ryba said. “Less than half the monitored calls are caused by heat, smoke or flame, which are not false alarms. Those are legit alarms (and) those systems are working as designed. It’s the ones that are not that are causing great concern.”
Ryba said many of these new automated alarm systems are in the North Central area of Regina but others are scattered across the city. They have very sensitive systems, he said, with sometimes dust or a change in indoor wind patterns setting them off.
Renters have often been the ones to change the alarm system, often with the landlords unaware. Regina Fire recommends renters to be in close contact with their landlords before allowing any change to the fire alarm system and if they have questions to reach out to their landlords.
Landlords, meanwhile, are being asked to review the Regina Fire Bylaw to ensure they fulfill their obligations about the fire monitoring systems in their properties.
Ryba said they don’t want people tampering with their systems, but they do want people’s systems to work as designed.
A false alarm is a billable offence, with the bill going to the landlord or property owner, and while they haven’t yet fined anyone during this wave, they can fine for any alarm deemed false. The first time in a calendar year, they will send a letter. First alarm deemed false after that is $300 and the next ones are $600 each.