Councils and businesses are facing tough penalties for unnecessary non-emergency lift call-outs, warns London Fire Brigade


Under the rules, the Brigade will charge the owners of buildings and lifts £260 for attending non-emergency lift call outs. The charge will be applied from the third occasion firefighters are called to the same building in a 12-month period. The Brigade says this will help cut the number of call-outs it receives when people are stuck in lifts but are not in danger. This will mean firefighters are free to attend more life-threatening emergencies.

The Brigade currently charges building and lift owners on the tenth occasion in a year it attends a non-emergency lift release at the same building. Since this charge and call filtering were introduced in late 2009 firefighters attended to 3,640 fewer lift releases, equivalent to £1 million of the Brigade's time and resources.

However, the number of call-outs is still far too high with firefighters spending an estimated 5,000 hours attending lift call-outs, since charging began. In 2010 the Brigade attended nearly 10,000 lift incidents of which only 67 were medical emergencies.

Under the new rules, which come into effect on April 1, in total, charges would have been applied 3,298 times, an eight-fold increase compared to the previous way of charging.

The Brigade has made the change in order to ensure that building and lift owners maintain their lifts properly. It also says that when people are shut in lifts and their health is not at risk, lift engineers should be called rather than the Brigade. This would ensure that firefighters can attend incidents which pose a greater threat and carry out important fire safety work.

Chairman and leader of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Cllr 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. 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.

"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."

In a further bid to reduce unnecessary lift call outs the Brigade also uses a filtering system on 999 calls to establish whether or not there is a real emergency or whether there is anyone else who can release the person from the lift, such as a lift engineer.  

This initiative, combined with the introduction of charges, has led to a 30 per cent reduction in the number of lift incidents since 2009.


Posted: 11.14am, 21.03.11