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Reducing false alarms

Find information on how to reduce unnecessary call-outs to commercial buildings.

What is a false alarm?

Anytime that Automatic Fire Detection equipment (AFD) activates from a cause other than a fire, it is classed as an Unwanted Fire Signal (UFS).

National Fire Chiefs Council (on YouTube):

Why do we need to reduce Unwanted Fire Signals?

Unwanted Fire Signals have a significant impact on both businesses and Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service.

On average 42% of all calls each year to Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service are Unwanted Fire Signals. This has the following impact on our service:

  • Diverts fire engines and firefighters from attending genuine emergencies.
  • Disrupts community fire prevention activities, such as Safer Home Visits and Road Traffic Collision reduction activities.
  • Disrupts business Fire Protection engagement.
  • Interrupts operational training for firefighters.
  • It is an unnecessary risk to the public and firefighters when responding to incidents on blue lights.
  • High financial costs for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service.

Unwanted Fire Signals also have an impact on businesses:

  • Disruption of the business which includes unnecessary downtime, loss of business and theft.
  • Loss of confidence and people can become complacent with the Automatic Fire Detection equipment, which could put lives at risk if there is an actual fire.
  • Additional cost to businesses if they employ On-Call Firefighters and release them to attend incidents, which turn out to be Unwanted Fire Signals.

Common causes of Unwanted Fire Signals

There can be many causes of Unwanted Fire Signals, but the common ones are:

  • Incorrect or poorly designed systems
  • Lack of maintenance
  • Poorly trained users
  • Fumes from cooking or burnt food
  • Steam from showers
  • Dust from building work or contractors
  • Insects
  • Malicious activation of Break Glass Call Points

What can you do to reduce the number of UFSs at your premises?

There are good practices to follow, which can prevent or reduce UFS’s.

  • Maintain the fire alarm system in good working order.
  • Ensure the alarm is appropriate to the risk.
  • Consider the use of covers or flaps to protect the break glass call points.
  • Move the break glass call point if possible if it is in a location where it is subjected accidental or maliciously activation.
  • Consider upgrading older systems. Money spent now could save money on lost business due to constant UFSs.
  • Ensure all relevant persons are made aware of the impact of UFSs both on the business and on the fire and rescue service.
  • Investigate the cause of every UFS and record the details.
  • Consider implementing a delay in the system to allow for investigation. It is important you seek advice from your local Fire Safety department before you implement this though.
  • Consider ‘coincidence’ or ‘two out of three voting’ configurations of the automatic fire detection systems.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service’s response to UFSs

We are committed to providing an effective service to the communities of Suffolk, ensuring that people can live in a safe and healthy environment.

Unwanted Fire Signals will be monitored and premises that have high numbers of activations will be contacted or visited. This enables us to work in partnership with those premises and provide support and assistance to reduce those numbers.

The trigger points for contact or a visit are:

  • Two UFS in a four week period
  • Three UFS in a twenty six week period

Premises that continue to have high activations and refuse to co-operate with Suffolk Fire and Rescue may be subject to enforcement under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

For further information on Reducing Unwanted Fire Signals please call the Business Support Team on 01473 260588 and ask for the Duty Fire Safety Officer.