EMERGENCY fire crew call-outs in Northamptonshire have fallen by an average of more than 600 per year since the service decided not to respond to every automatic alarm.
Service chiefs said the fall since 2009 was mainly down to targeting fire prevention advice at the elderly, ethnic communities and students.
Another element is a policy put in place two years ago which means firefighters wait for a blaze to be confirmed by staff if an automatic alarm goes off at shop or business during working hours. The policy is soon to be extended to county hotels.
Together, the initiatives saw the 11,916 call-outs per year in 2009 reduce by 650 in 2010 then fall by a further 554 in 2011.
Area Commander Darren Dovey said: “What has made a significant difference is our unwarranted fire signal policy.
“In 99.5 per cent of the cases we do not need to go out to automatic alarms.
“Someone on site is able to evacuate people just in case and then let us know on the phone if there are actual signs of a fire in the building.
“More often than not it’s burnt toast or a similar false alarm.
“That saves us the time and money of a needless trip.”
Advice has also been given to groups for the elderly and students about how to take extra care.
Another target group is people who live in houses of multiple occupancy whose living habits, such as cooking in their rooms, make fires 70 per cent more likely than in the general population.
Fewer call-outs to fires has increased capacity to attend other emergencies.
Mr Dovey said: “We now expect to see the number of responses to cardiac arrests with our defibrilators, under the community first responder scheme, to increase as fire calls go down.”
On Tuesday, the Evening Telegraph revealed county firefighters had already been called out to nearly 600 false alarms this year. The service said a major cause were faulty automatic alarm systems in large buildings.