Jim Boult: Let’s work to stop false alarms

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Happy New Year to you all and I hope everyone had a pleasant and satisfying Christmas and New Year period. My very best wishes to you all for an outstandingly successful 2018.

Just prior to Christmas I had a briefing from senior executives of FENZ, which is the new unified urban and rural firefighting organisation.

The meeting was to discuss various issues facing emergency services in the district given our rate of growth.

As the district develops, FENZ will need to ensure that services are located within required distances of new residential areas. This is a body of work currently in development, requiring strategic and long-term thinking.

I was, however, disappointed to learn that Wakatipu has the worst rate of false alarms in the entire country – 61 per cent of alarm call-outs in our town need not happen. This is bad enough on its own, but take account of the fact that our service is a volunteer one which means that 61 per cent of the time these hard-working folk are pulled out of their beds or away from their jobs for no good reason. This is not a situation we should allow to continue.

I’m told the alarms fall into various categories. There are the inevitable malicious false alarms (thankfully few) but by far the main contributor is poorly-installed or maintained fire alarm systems. This is particularly the case in commercial premises. It’s a timely reminder for all building owners to ensure that their systems are regularly maintained and fit for purpose. However one of the contributing factors is that regulations for the quality of system encourage the bare minimum and this often leads to performance issues. I have undertaken to FENZ that council will review its requirements for alarm systems going forward.

Accommodation providers also need to make sure their guests understand the workings of the appliances in their rooms.

Our volunteer emergency services have enough on their plates. They are now dealing with around 30 per cent more road accidents than they were a couple of years ago. The last thing we need to do is load them up with unnecessary false alarms. It’s time for us all to lift our game in this regard.

And if we needed a reminder of the dangers of fire in our hot and dry summer, the disastrous fires at Roys Peak and the Mount Aurum Homestead provided it in ample measure.

While the homestead could not be saved due to its remote location, those who turned out for the Roys Peak fire did their usual sterling job. Well done to all involved. To those of you volunteering in the field of emergency services this year, a heartfelt thank you for your time and compassion.

I ask that our community support your endeavours, make your work as easy as possible and offer assistance where they can.

Jim Boult is Queenstown’s mayor