Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Fire crews charge for lift rescue

Fire engine
LFB will charge 260 on the tenth lift release at the same building in a year

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) is to start charging property owners where they are persistently called out to free people trapped in faulty lifts.

One in every 10 calls the LFB gets is to release someone from a lift, costing the brigade more than an estimated £4m a year.

Firefighters attended 14,000 such calls in the year to September 2009.

The LFB says each call takes up time a fire crew could be on standby for real emergencies.

'A disgrace'

"It doesn't make sense for us to waste firefighters' time and public resources releasing people where there has not been an emergency," said London fire authority chairman Brian Coleman.

"Sometimes we are called repeatedly to release people from the same buildings and that is simply not acceptable. Lift owners need to make proper provisions for their lifts - not firefighters."

If there's a lack of funding, let the government or the mayor pay for it
Ian Leahair, Fire Brigades Union

But Ian Leahair, from the Fire Brigades Union, disapproved of the plans.

"It's a disgrace if we don't turn up to someone shut in a lift," he said.

"The public rely on us to release them. We provide a service. We've done that for a number of years and if there's a lack of funding, let the government or the mayor pay for it."

Responsibility for making sure there are arrangements in place to release people legally rests with a buildings' owners or managers.

Councillor Brian Coleman explains the policy on lift rescue charging

When taking calls from the public about a person trapped in a lift, the fire brigade will ask callers a series of questions to determine if a fire engine needs to attend.

The LFB will charge £260 on the tenth lift release at the same building within a year and for all subsequent non-emergency lift releases.

Tower Hamlets - which has a large number of high-rise blocks of flats - was the worst affected London borough with 1,688 calls relating to people stuck in lifts in the past year.

Waltham Forest had the fewest number of calls, just 115 in that period.

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