False alarm calls an ongoing concern for fire department

Rimbey firefighters are reminding home and business owners to be aware of the ease with which false alarm calls

  • Aug. 19, 2014 3:00 p.m.

By Stuart Fullarton

Black Press

Rimbey firefighters are reminding home and business owners to be aware of the ease with which false alarm calls may inadvertently be placed, often resulting in the unnecessary consumption of firefighters’ time and energy.

Rimbey Fire and Rescue Brigade is required to treat all calls seriously, meaning a false alarm call could delay or prevent firefighters from attending another serious situation unfolding at the same time.

“It sends a lot of emergency services people out there,” said Rimbey fire chief John Weisgerber. “We have to respond to the call when it comes in. We can’t just assume it’s a false alarm.”

Rimbey Fire is manned by volunteers who also work full-time jobs. A false alarm may cause a firefighter to leave his or her workplace, only to find out that the call was mistakenly placed.

Weisgerber said there are a number of reasons why alarms may be set off. Regardless, he assured each case is treated the same way by the firefighters who attend.

And he’d like to see action taken to encourage people to ensure they’re part of the solution, not the problem.

“We did have something in place years ago, but it just kind of fell away as time went on,” he said, adding talks were being planned to look at “putting something back into place.”

It’s not clear what that something would be, although some departments from other municipalities in the region are suffering from the same problem.

One municipality, Red Deer County, passed first reading earlier this month of a bylaw that would see fines imposed for every second and subsequent false alarm calls placed within the same calendar year.

Those fines would range from $200 to $400, should the bylaw be approved.

Ponoka County assistant CAO Tom Webber said there are no plans for Ponoka County to implement such measures in the near future.

Although false alarms happens occasionally throughout the county, he said, they’re not yet frequent enough to justify actions such as those being pursued by Red Deer County.

“A lot of these big dairy barns and hog barns have alarm systems in them, but generally speaking they call off the emergency response before it leaves the hall,” he said.

Regarding false alarms in residential areas, he said: “There’s the odd one, again, but it’s not overwhelming by any sense of the imagination.”

Nonetheless, the problem persists in Rimbey, according to Weisgerber.

“We’re all volunteers, and we’re all leaving our jobs to go to what could be a call,” he said. “It could be a fire, and it could be an emergency.”

Volunteers with daytime availability are currently being sought after, he added. Those interested in finding out more about the role are asked to leave a message at the fire hall by phoning 403-843-2404.


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