MILLIONS of pounds of taxpayers’ cash is being wasted due to automatic alarms, new figures show.

Greater Manchester Fire Service crews follow a protocol to go to community buildings such as hospitals when automatic alarms sound — but there is an emergency less than one per cent of the time.

In the 12 months up until the end of June this year, crews based at Bury Fire Station were called out 177 times – equating to £400 each occasion when staff wages, fuel and apparatus maintenance is taken into account – amounting to a total cost of £70,800.

In the same period, crews based at Whitefield Fire Station in Bury New Road were called out 104 times at a total cost of £42,800, and crews from Ramsbottom Fire Station were called out 21 times at a total cost of £8,400.

The busiest station was Manchester Central, whose crews answered 449 alarm calls.

Across the county, crews were sent to automatic alarm calls 4,879 times at a total cost of £1,951,600.

The Bury Times obtained the figures from Greater Manchester Fire Service (GMFRS) using the Freedom of Information Act.

GMFRS said less than one per cent of automatic alarm calls were actual fires and only about 60 callouts a year require firefighters to use equipment.

After every false alarm firefighters attend, the officer in charge investigates how it can be prevented in future.

GMFRS chairman Coun David Acton said: “Firefighters find false alarms frustrating because it makes them unavailable for genuine incidents and takes them away from the important community safety work they do.

“But we are also very concerned that people become oblivious to alarms if they sound too often when there is no fire.

“The communities of Greater Manchester told us they want us to publicly report on the number of false alarms that our crews attend and, as a result, we have introduced that as a measure in our plans for 2013 to 2016.”

GMFRS overhauled its strategy in 2010 so staff at buildings where automatic alarms sound were asked to call a switchboard and describe the emergency, so a decision could be taken on whether fire crews were needed.

The service also urges companies to keep fire risk assessments updated and to ensure alarms are properly designed, installed and commissioned to meet the needs of the building.