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Brigade plea: ‘Call us out before you film fire on your phone’

Fire chiefs fear public are more concerned about social media than alerting them to emergencies

23 August, 2019 — By Briony Pickford

FIREFIGHTERS this week reminded people to use their phones to call 999 when they see a fire, not film it.

Soho fire station watch manager Paul Askew said the urge to post on social media was so overwhelming that people had become “complacent” and are creating delays to emergency calls.

London Fire Brigade created a short awareness film this week that reveals the impact of delays to 999 calls on building in Curzon Street.

The brigade is urging members of the public: #Call999BeforeYouFilm.

Mr Askew said: “We attended a fire at a restaurant in Mayfair last November and when we arrived, the fire was racing up the side of the building. I was astounded by the number of people standing there with their phones out taking photos and videos.

“I asked several people if they had called 999 and they all said they had assumed someone else had. The fire was very visible yet we only received 15 calls, which is less than we would expect for a visible fire.

“Never make the assumption that someone else has called the emergency services. Your call could be the first and make a huge difference to the outcome of the incident.”

He added: “We are baffled by the fact that when we are the first fire engine to arrive at a fire, there are people simply stood around filming a building burning rather than ­calling the emergency services.

“Technology has ad­vanced so much that people are forgetting the basics and becoming complacent about their role in an emergency.”

Six fire engines and around 40 firefighters were called to the fire at a restaurant in Curzon Street on November 2.

The LFB received five calls to a visible skip fire in Clareville Street in South Kensington and video footage from the scene shows many people standing in the vicinity of the fire watching the flames.

The LFB’s most recent Fire Facts report, data show that more than 40 per cent of fatalities at domestics fires occur when there has been a delay in calling 999 of 10 minutes or more.

In 2018 the average attendance time for the first fire engine to get to an incident was five minutes and 14 seconds.

The brigade’s senior operations manager Adam Crinion said: “It may seem like an obvious ask, but if you ever see a fire or other emergency incident, always call 999.

“We would always rather receive several calls about the same emergency and have a full picture of the scale of the incident.”

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