Between April and September 2015, fire and rescue services in England attended more than 180,000 fire false alarms.
This figure accounts for 40% of all incidents which the service attended during that period. In fact, fire and rescue services attended more false alarms than actual fires, something which has been the case since 2004.
About two-thirds of those false alarms were sparked as the result of apparatus, which includes fire alarm systems. The rest were the result of people calling 999 with good intentions or were malicious.
It’s important to emphasise that if you ever suspect a fire, then you should immediately ask for emergency assistance. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
However, when fire engines are attending a false alarm, they could otherwise be going to a real emergency, or you’re taking firefighters away from vital training.
On top of that, when fire crews have to travel at high speeds, members of the public are put at unnecessary risk.
And on a personal level, when people are exposed to frequent false alarms, they become complacent. That means the next time the fire alarm goes off, they’re slower to react when it may actually be a real emergency. You need people to have confidence in the fire alarm system you have installed.
We can all play our part to help reduce the number of false alarms the fire service attends. You can do this by checking your fire detection equipment and making sure everyone understands basic fire safety precautions.
How To Prevent False Alarms
Making sure you have a completed fire risk assessment which is regularly reviewed is essential. That will allow you to better identify where you should have detectors and which sensor type is appropriate for the location.
For example, dust, dirt and cooking fumes can all set off a smoke detector. And in locations where these elements are common, a heat detector is likely to be a better choice. But you must also make sure heat detectors are not placed directly above cooking equipment in order for them to work accurately.
The fire alarm system also needs designing, installing, and maintaining by professionals. That way, you know you have the best system to meet the conditions of your premises, which remains in good working order.
And just like your ordinary fire alarm, the sensors tend only to have a limited life of around 10 years, so it is important they are replaced once they reach a certain age to keep your system working, in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Modern fire alarm systems are good at detecting faults in your equipment so you can resolve them as soon as possible, and depending on what type of system you have, you may be able to see accurately where the alarm was activated so you can quickly investigate the cause.
Having Procedures In Place
It’s good to designate one person as having responsibility for the fire alarm system. Their role should then involve testing it weekly, arranging annual maintenance, and monitoring its condition themselves.
And you also need to have fire wardens who are on hand to act as soon as the alarm sounds and direct everyone as appropriate. Practicing the fire drill every six months means everyone is familiar with what they should do.
It’s important to have a fire alarm log book. This allows you to record the success of these drills. But it also gives you somewhere to properly record any false alarms.
Reviewing the log book may help you to notice a common cause of false fire alarms. And when you have an understanding, it then allows you to take remedial action to prevent a recurrence.
As an example, you may find that there is a call point which people regularly hit accidentally which causes the false alarms. You can then install a cover which needs lifting before the glass can be broken.
What To Do If You Experience A False Alarm
As part of your emergency procedure, you’ll have a system in place to inform the fire services. It may be they are automatically contacted by the fire alarm system when it is activated, or you’ll have designated someone to call them.
Should you discover after the fire brigade are called that it was a false alarm, then you should immediately ring 999 to let them know. That way, you may be able to prevent resources from being taken away from important work.
However, if you’re ever not sure, then once again—it is better to be safe than sorry.
The fire service will investigate for you and then give you helpful advice to help in the future.
But you must remember to log and analyse false alarms and their causes. Whether it’s an equipment fault, a malicious act, or purely an accident, the cause of a false alarm may be easily identified and corrected. That way, you can prevent it from happening again.