Peoria Fire Department averages more than 100 false alarm calls per month

By Marshanna Hester

June 21, 2013 Updated Jun 21, 2013 at 2:01 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Each year, the Peoria Fire Department responds to up to 1,500 false alarm calls.

That is an average of more than 100 a month, a number officials are concerned about and working to fix.

Fire officials say the most recent incident happened Monday night, when a call came in about a boat on fire on the Illinois River near the McCluggage Bridge in Peoria. Seven fire companies responded and saw nothing.

"911 is not a game. It is not a joke," said Phillip Maclin, Peoria's Division Chief of Fire Prevention. "Our citizens are depending upon that system to help them when they're having their worst day."

Maclin said the number of worst days are increasing. Of the 18,000 calls for the Peoria Fire Department last year, 70 percent were medical-related.

Maclin said false calls could mean life or death for someone who is really in danger.

"When we have companies responding from outer fire stations into an area that is not their territory, it extends response time," he said.

Maclin said the calls come from a variety of locations, such as homes, businesses and apartment complexes.

The department is working to make sure those with repeat problems have their systems inspected each year. If not, the city has a fine process.

"After three false alarms you're charged $50," he said. "After 10, you're charged $100 per alarm."

There is no such ordinance in Peoria Heights, but Fire Chief Greg Walters said that doesn't mean there couldn't be.

He said the village has, at most, 20 false alarms a year, many of which are residential.

In times of multiple calls, the volunteer department relies on its command staff and another component.

"We have great mutual aid response with surrounding departments," said Walters. "If needed we call them and I tell you what, they all come. It's a good partnership we share."

Both departments also share a positive outlook, saying the false alarms keep firefighters ready at all times and in the end, no one was hurt.

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