The policy is published by the UK Chief Fire Officers’ Association, which represents senior officers from UK fire and rescue services. But CFOA’s role is only advisory – chief fire officers fiercely guard their local autonomy and the degree of implementation of the policy is down to each of the UK’s 56 regional fire services. In fact, once of the downfalls of the previous edition of the policy was that it was inconsistently applied up and down the country.
The authors of the latest edition hope that it will address some of the previous inconsistencies and they have taken the opportunity to bring it into line with new fire safety legislation which was enacted in 2006. But even in the new edition, there are still issues over alarm signal filtering by alarm receiving centres and about the lack of compulsion on fire services to apply the policy in a uniform way. In fact, the Fire Industry Association is so concerned that the policy will be introduced at the discretion of individual fire services that it has repeated its call for the mandatory application of the policy. There is little chance of that happening, however, under the existing devolved nature of fire and rescue in the UK.
CFOA’s hope is that over time, fire service will ‘converge’ in their approach to the issue of false alarms. Launching the new policy, Iain Cox, chair of CFOA’s national fire safety committee urged fire and rescue services to “look at the…policy and ask yourselves “why not?’ rather than ‘why?’”
It remains to be seen whether the implementation of the policy will herald a new era of consistency across the country, or whether it will fudge the issue of trying to apply a national policy to 56 different fire services, each with their own local priorities and circumstances.