False Alarms Improved in 2006, Total Fire Calls Topped 24 Million

The latest statistics compiled by NFPA show false alarm calls to the nation's fire departments dipped slightly in 2006, but overall calls continued to rise -- topping 24.4 million for the year. Medical calls to fire departments surpassed 15 million for that year, continuing a trend that is seeing fire calls decline and medical calls increase.

NFPA estimates there were about 1,140,900 firefighters nationwide in 2006, with 316,950 (28 percent) being career firefighters and 823,950 being volunteers. The association said 76 percent of the career firefighters work in communities protecting 25,000 or more people, while 95 percent of the volunteer firefighters are in departments protecting fewer than 2,500 people. And there are an estimated 30,635 fire departments in the United States, according to NFPA.

In 2006, U.S. fire departments responded to 2,119,500 false alarms, according to NFPA's new report. This total was 0.7 percent below the total of 2,134,000 false alarms the previous year. However, the 2006 total still means one of every 10 calls answered by a fire department that year was a false alarm.

System malfunctions decreased 3.3 percent in 2006 from the year before, to 721,000 (34 percent of all false alarms. Encouragingly, malicious false calls decreased 19.5 percent for the year, to 193,500s. Unintentional false calls (e.g., tripping an interior alarm accidentally) accounted for 850,000 false alarms, or 40.1 percent of the total. Other false calls including bomb scares were 355,000 (16.8 percent of all false calls), the report states.

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