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Church of Scotland fears new fire laws will put its buildings at risk

by Marcus Jones
St Simon's church Glasgow fire Credit Amy Iona Twitter.jpg thumb.jpg - Banner image

Historic churches across Scotland are being put in danger because of new laws being introduced around fire alarms.

That's the claim being made by the Church of Scotland.

From today, fire services across the country won't automatically be dispatched to investigate fire alarms at businesses (including churches) in an attempt to reduce the number of unnecessary callouts.

It means that fire safety marshals, who are often volunteers, will have to investigate themselves and then confirm if there is a fire before calling 999.

Raising concern, Mo D'Souli, health, safety, risk and compliance manager for the trustees of the Church of Scotland, said: "There is a lack of clarity around what might be considered equivalent to visual confirmation of fire to enable office bearers to make confident judgments, and we fear it will lead to confusion.

"We understand that the protection of life within occupied buildings is a priority and emergency procedures can be quickly activated by people on site in the event of an outbreak.

"However, we are concerned about the impact on buildings during out-of-hour periods when they are empty.

"All fire alarm activations are time-critical whereby a small breakout can quickly lead to a major incident and cause significant damage to property.

"There will no doubt be a high financial cost to the church if we are to increase the level and sophistication of fire alarm systems and detector components in our most significant heritage buildings and provide additional resources and training to duty holders.

"It is also likely that increasing the time of an SFRS response could impact on the average cost of dealing with fires, particularly in large heritage buildings.

"This could reduce risk appetite amongst insurance companies for these properties and drive up costs in the long-term."

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service says tens of thousands of unnecessary blue light journeys are carried out in Scotland every year and resources need to be freed up for real emergencies.

Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Iain Macleod said: "Firefighters will always respond to any reports of fire or signs of a fire. Signs of fire may include but are not limited to: visual flame; smell of smoke; smell of burning; or any fire alarm signal - other than a single smoke detector."

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