Unlock Requests Swamping London Fire Brigade

New figures from the department show its personnel responded to almost 22,000 calls, or 20 per day, in the past three years.

Londoners must not know how to contact a locksmith, or perhaps they don't want to pay for a house call. Whatever the reason, their calls to the London Fire Brigade for mainly routine locksmith matters is bedeviling the UK's largest fire department.

The brigade's new figures show its firefighters were summoned almost once per hour during the past three years to rescue people who had locked themselves inside or out of a building or vehicle. The total of nearly 22,000 calls have cost taxpayers around £5.7 million -– about $8.75 million. The brigade's list of calls is almost comical, although undoubtedly some of the calls were true emergencies:

  • 2,287 incidents where people were locked in
  • 1,613 incidents where people were locked out
  • 1,409 incidents involving babies or children being locked in cars or homes
  • 276 adults and 176 children locked in toilets
  • 12 people locked in cemeteries
  • 14 people locked in cupboards
  • A woman stuck in a refrigerator
  • A man shut in a freezer
  • A person locked in the luggage area of a coach
  • A person locked in a crematorium with a child
  • A person stuck in a recycling bin

"We get called to an absurd number of non-emergency incidents involving people who have locked themselves in or out of their homes," said Dave Brown, LFB head of operations, prevention and response. "We've even had people call 999 to ask if we can come round and let them into their homes, but then ask for the fire engine to arrive at 11:30 once they've finished at the pub. If it's not a genuine emergency, ring a locksmith, not the fire brigade. Whilst firefighters are helping people get back into their homes, someone else could be trapped in a fire. If it's obvious to our crews that it's not an emergency, we won't help and people may well find themselves left out in the cold."

"There are around 3,000 locksmiths in the UK so there's really no excuse not to call one if you find yourself locked in or out. In most situations, a locksmith should be with you within an hour," said Steffan George of the Master Locksmiths Association. "It's always advisable to contact a qualified and inspected locksmith, such as those vetted by the MLA. I'd even suggest storing the phone number of a local locksmith in your mobile in case you ever need it."

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