Unwanted fire signals
Unwanted fire signals tie up fire crews when they could be attending real emergencies.
Automatic fire alarms help to keep premises and their occupants safe by providing early warning of a possible fire, which gives people inside the building time to evacuate. However not all fire alarm detection systems are triggered by real fires – steam, cigarette smoke, aerosol sprays and light smoke from cooking can also trigger these systems.
When a fire alarm goes off, as a result of anything other than a real fire, this is considered to be an unwanted fire signal.
The consequences of this are:
- Fire crews waste time responding to an unwanted fire signal when they could be going to a genuine emergency or carrying out vital training.
- They can cause disruption to business, affecting efficiency, profitability and services.
- Frequent false alarms in a building cause staff to become complacent and less willing to act quickly when the alarm activates.
As a result, we have made an important change to our policy regarding attending automatic fire alarms, which every business should be aware of. This new system of ‘call challenging’ has helped us to decide if the call is a false alarm or a genuine emergency and has successfully reduced the number of false alarms calls that we attend.
Our new approach
When the fire alarm system in a building is activated, a call is normally made to the Fire and Rescue Service, either directly by staff in the building or indirectly via an Alarm Receiving Centre.
Fire Control staff will challenge callers to determine the following:
- Is there a confirmed fire?
- Is there likely to be anyone asleep on the premises, eg if it is a nursing home?
- Are the premises unoccupied?
If the caller answers ‘no’ to these questions, they will be asked to hang up and to check the building for signs of a fire. Crews attending automatic fire alarm call outs will investigate the cause of the alarm and record the reason for the false alarm. This record will be used to support our Fire Protection Officers when auditing the premises concerned to see if there are any other issues that may contravene the Fire Safety Order 2005. This could subsequently lead to enforcement action being taken against the responsible person.
If you spot signs of fire, dial 999
Signs of fire include things like obvious flames, the smell of smoke, lights flickering or increased heat. If you spot a sign of fire call 999. We are not asking you to put yourself in danger, we are just asking that you look for signs of a fire - not a fire itself!
Does the policy apply to all premises?
No, in certain higher life risk premises, such as hospitals, it does not apply. These premises are provided with a higher risk code and our Fire Control Operators will mobilise a fire engine to that type of premises without challenging the call.
The next steps for your business
- The fire risk assessment for your premises is up-to-date and reflects the conditions in your premises.
- Your fire alarm and detection system has been properly designed, installed and commissioned and that it is properly managed and maintained.
- You have people designated to take responsibility for the management and maintenance of your fire alarm system.
- In the event of your fire alarm operating, the premises are evacuated, if this forms part of your fire strategy.
- Your fire alarm procedures include the designation of specific staff to check whether or not there are any signs of a fire when the fire alarm sounds.
- If any signs of fire are found, make sure there is a designated member of staff to call the Fire and Rescue Service using the 999/112 system.
- Any false alarms are properly recorded in the fire alarm log book, including remedial actions taken to prevent a recurrence.
- An appropriate number of key holders are appointed to attend the premises during incidents that are out-of-hours (key holders must be no more than 20 minutes away).