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How To Prevent False Fire Alarms

Fire alarms are lifesaving tools that are adept at identifying fires in their early stages, giving the occupants of a building enough time to evacuate safely. And the more time people have to safely leave the premises, the more likely they are to survive the fire.

Having a sensitive fire alarm is a superpower when it comes to preventing fire-related fatalities. But this advantage comes with a downside: highly sensitive fire systems are far more likely to cause false fire alarms.

False Fire Alarms: The Facts

While the number of false alarms is decreasing over time due to improving technology, false alarms continue to cause significant problems for businesses, homeowners, and fire services.

In 2021/2022, as many as 98% of all automatic fire alarms - and 40% of all fire alarms attended by the emergency services - were false alarms; of which, 90% were due to issues with the fire alarm itself. This causes a significant drain on emergency services, putting lives at risk and costing the Fire and Rescue Services £1 billion per year.

Repeated false alarms can result in staff members and other individuals becoming complacent, which can produce a delayed evacuation response in the event of a real fire. Or worse, they may fail to respond at all to a real fire on your property.

How False Alarms Affect The Fire And Rescue Services

• False alarms put lives at risk by causing delays for those experiencing real emergencies who are waiting for the Fire and Rescue Services to arrive

• Emergency services may drive under ‘Blue Light’ conditions during a perceived emergency, which can include exceeding the speed limit. This can put the lives of the drivers and the public at unnecessary risk if there is no real emergency

• Some Fire and Rescue Services have even begun to delay their response, or worse still, not respond to premises known to have frequent false alarms. This can pose a serious risk to the occupants in the event of a real emergency

• False alarms can disrupt essential prevention work, such as arson reduction and training

• False alarms drain emergency services of the precious resources they need to respond to genuine emergencies

Your Responsibilities

Responsible Persons for properties that have an Automatic Fire Alarm (AFA) system must:

• Be able to confirm the presence of a fire in the event of an alert to fire services

• Call the fire services back on 999 to cancel the response if they discover an unwanted alarm

• Take appropriate steps to reduce false alarms and record any actions taken to achieve this

Any Responsible Persons who are found liable for repeated false alarms to the emergency services may be issued with fines.

In addition, Fire and Rescue Services recommend that if your alarm monitoring services pass a call to the fire service, the key holders are also contacted at the same time as the initial call. These key holders should then attend the site within 20 minutes to confirm the presence of a fire.

What Causes False Fire Alarms?

The most common causes of false fire alarms include:

• Smoke from cooking equipment and food

• Steam from showers and industrial cleaning tools

• Dust from building activities

• Insects inside or around smoke detector systems

• Untrained or poorly trained users

• Poorly designed or maintained fire safety systems

• Staff or residents smoking cigarettes near smoke detectors

Preventing False Fire Alarms

Repeated false alarms can have serious consequences for the safety of your staff, customers, visitors, and residents – while also putting the surrounding community at risk by diverting resources away from where they are needed.

Thankfully, there are some simple precautions you can take to reduce the number of false fire alarms that your business generates.

These include:

• Only cook in rooms that are intended for cooking - and for an even greater impact, keep all cooking equipment stored in these areas too

In addition, use extractor fans where possible, and close the doors between the kitchen area and other parts of your premises. Do not keep a smoke alarm in the kitchen as this could cause a false alarm! Instead, only use heat alarms

• Use ventilation systems to remove steam from areas such as showers, factory floors, and cleaning facilities. Again, close the connecting doors wherever possible

• Do not use aerosols near a smoke detector

• Keep fire detectors clear of dust, insects, and other potential triggers by vacuuming or dusting them regularly

• Ensure all users have been thoroughly trained in the use of your site’s fire safety equipment

• Test your alarm weekly, and schedule your fire alarm inspection (and servicing) for at least once every six months

• Ensure that your fire alarm is fitted by a competent person or an approved third-party provider

• Prohibit smoking near the smoke detector and provide an outdoor smoking area for staff or residents who smoke

Do you want to ensure that your fire alarm systems are safely installed and functioning correctly? Get in touch with our expert team!

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