Safety fears over €500 fire service callout fee
FEARS were raised today that people will not call 999 because of the new €500 fire brigade call-out charge.
Officials have appealed to the public to think safety rather than expense when faced with a fire or other emergency situation.
From Monday, Dublin City Council (DCC) will charge private residents for fire-fighting services.
This has raised fears that witnesses to road traffic collisions or house fires may hesitate calling the emergency services.
SIPTU sector organiser Owen Reidy said elderly people will fear the charge -- even if there's a small house fire.
A fee of €500 will apply for the first hour of services supplied at domestic fires, false alarms and chimney fires.
In the case of call-outs to road traffic accidents, the charge increases to €610. For every subsequent hour, a further €450 to €485 will be charged.
Mr Reidy said: "We think it's regressive. We think it'll change human behaviour which will put firefighters at risk.
"If an elderly person senses that they have a small house fire and they know they're going to be charged, they might delay the call and endanger the house and property, and the health of the firefighter who comes later to fight the fire. Someone might say, if I see a road traffic accident and I ring 999, who's going to be liable for the charge? Am I?"
He added: "These charges are supposed to be recouped from the insurance industry. But when you look at other local authorities, the council gets very little of this back. So we feel the citizen will pay."
However, city councillor Mannix Flynn reassured people of the greater Dublin area that insurance companies will incur the cost, but he called for greater clarity from DCC.
"Dublin Fire Brigade are obliged to respond to any situation irrespective of fees and the public need to be reassured of this."
Gerry Geraghty, from DCC, yesterday assured people that house insurance will cover the call-out charges.