Over the past 10 years, the Emergency Services in England have responded to an average of 237,418 False Alarms each year. 67% of these False Alarms were due to ‘apparatus’.*
The latest figures published by the government estimate that the cost of false fire alarms in the UK is around £1 billion a year.* Much of this cost is borne by commerce from lost production and interruptions to business.
The impact of false alarms and unwanted fire signals
Major disruption to business effectiveness, efficiency, profitability & services
Erode user’s confidence in the value and reliability of their fire detection system – frequent false alarms in a building can cause staff to become complacent and less willing to react when a fire alarm actuates
Diverting essential services from true emergencies
Unnecessary risk to fire crew and public whilst responding (accidents)
Disruption to arson reduction, community safety and fire safety activities
Drain on public finances
Reducing false alarms
Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to reduce false alarms. Much of it is simple common sense – and part of your legal responsibilities already.
1.Make sure the fire alarm design suits the premises design and use
Make sure your alarm is fit for purpose. If your business activity has changed or the building itself has changed you may need to review the types of detectors you have and where they are positioned, you should review the Fire Risk Assessment.
2.Make sure the alarm system is properly and regularly maintained
Regular servicing and maintenance will ensure your fire alarm system is compliant and working as it should be. Ensure you have your system maintained by a third party certified maintenance company to reduce false activations.
3.Replace ageing systems and components
Manufacturers generally recommend the replacement of detectors between 10 and 15 years, the recommended age varies across the wide range of manufacturers. Ageing equipment can be a cause of false alarms as the components start to fail. As equipment becomes obsolete some service providers may try to keep the system going, but this is a false economy as call out charges and the disruption caused soon adds up.
4.Investigate false alarms and work to build in measures that prevent unnecessary recurrence
Review procedures – does your alarm need to be on auto dial during occupied hours? Are all staff aware when the alarm is being tested and can you isolate areas whilst testing? Train staff to safely investigate the causes of any alarm so you can confirm any incident.
*Source: Communities and Local Government – Fire Statistics and Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service website