callhandlerWest Midlands Fire Service’s assertive approach to charging for non-emergency calls made to 999 has helped protect resources for genuine emergencies.

In the year since the brigade started charging for a turn out fee, calls made to the control room have reduced by 25 per cent.

The brigade has a statutory duty to effectively respond to fires, road traffic collisions and other emergencies, which are some of its core functions.

Also by law, they can charge for non-emergency call-outs and WMFS is actively challenging callers to make sure its priority response and appropriate funds are protected.

Challenging and charging
Emergency Response Team manager, Wesley Williams, said: “This dual approach of call challenging and charging when its appropriate means we’re successfully freeing-up fire-fighters and resources for emergencies, training and valuable fire prevention and safety work.

“Only when the incident is a clear emergency or people may be at risk of harm would we class it as non-chargeable. We’re now reviewing the first year to ensure that we have a consistent approach to charging brigade-wide.”

He added that, staff in their control room are making great progress in filtering out none emergency calls that are best dealt elsewhere.

Calls for locksmiths
Callers are often advised by WMFS staff to consider contacting a relevant service provider or tradesperson, like a plumber or a locksmith.

The most frequent calls are from locked in or out individuals (508 in 2012/12), followed by water and flooding (219) and releasing people from lifts (202) which can  now be charged.

Since April 2012, the brigade has charged more than £21,000 for SSCs which has led to calls reducing by 948 to 2,809.