Tower Hamlets Council is likely to face tough penalties after it was disclosed that the borough has the second largest number of ‘chargeable’ fire brigade call-outs to lift breakdowns in London.
London Fire Brigade said the council, along with businesses in the borough, will face tougher penalties for non-emergency lift incidents from April.
There were a total of 71 incidents in Tower Hamlets since December last year, second only to Southwark which had 126 non-emergency call-outs.
Building owners currently face fines after the tenth incident within a twelve-month period. This will be replaced by a £260 charge, applied from the third occasion in a year when firefighters are called to the same building.
The Chairman and leader of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Councillor Brian Coleman, said: “Since we began clamping down on unnecessary lift call outs we have freed up resources equivalent to £1 million. However, too many people are still wasting our firefighters’ time.”
He added: “Firefighters need to be available to attend emergencies where it is a matter of life and death. It should not be left to us to clear up after those who do not properly maintain their lifts.”
The frequency of call-outs is still high, with fire-fighters spending an estimated 5,000 hours attending lift incidents since the charges were introduced in 2009.
In 2010, LFB attended nearly 10,000 lift incidents of which only 67 were medical emergencies.
Fire chiefs are hopeful that this measure will cut the number of call-outs it receives when people are stuck in lifts but are not in danger and would be able to attend more life-threatening emergencies.
Hackney has a total of 24 ‘chargeable’ life incidents, followed by 12 calls in Lewisham but no figures were available for Croydon.
Coleman added: “Firefighters will always attend a call out where it is a real emergency and people are in need of help. However, if it is not an emergency, it should be up to the lift company, whose product has broken down, to fix the problem.”