Preventing False Fire Alarms
Fire alarms act as a vital early warning system, helping keep people safe by alerting them to fires and giving them more time to escape. However, the majority of automatic fire alarms are false alarms caused by faulty or badly maintained fire systems. For example in 2008 ‘unwanted fire signals’ (false fire alarms) accounted for 48,771 callouts for the London Fire Brigade.
False alarms can prevent firefighters from attending real emergencies or carrying out vital fire safety work. Frequent false alarms can also cause people to be less willing to act in the event of a real fire.
In recent years, many of the fire brigades have changed their policies regarding automatic fire alarms. This means that when a fire alarm system in a building operates, and the Fire and Rescue Service is contacted, they will ring back whoever is responsible for fire safety to check, where possible, if there are actually any signs of fire.
As a result of this change the number of false alarms being attended by firefighters in London has fallen by more than 15% over the last four years to 40,734 false alarms in 2011.
According to Cllr Brian Coleman, Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority:
“It’s clearly good news that the number of false alarms we’re called out to is going down. However, these incidents are still happening all too frequently and they continue to be a drain on the public purse. Businesses need to make sure their alarms are properly maintained so our firefighters can focus on attending real emergencies.”
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue has produced some helpful information for businesses on safe ways of investigating fire alarms.
- When you investigate, use your senses and if at any time you find signs of a fire, retreat from the building and make sure the fire and rescue service is called on 999.
- Ensure your building is being evacuated in accordance with your alarm procedure, before doing anything else.
- 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 is evacuated, where this forms part of the fire strategy for your premises;
- 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, ensure that
- there is a designated member of staff to call the Fire and Rescue Service using the 999/112 system; and
- Any false alarms are properly recorded in the fire alarm log book, including remedial actions taken to prevent a recurrence.