The problem with false alarms:
Most fire alarm and detection systems don’t cause false alarms, but mismanagement of them does. In the UK alone the total cost of false fire alarms is £1 billion a year. A fire engine is called to a false alarm every 12 minutes in London, and worryingly over a third of all emergency calls are false alarms. – UK fire and rescue authorities attended 312,000 false alarms in 2011-12.
Costs to fire & rescue services:
- Time wasted
- Taking effort away from possible real fires
Costs to you:
- Lost production
- Disruption due to staff evacuation
- Annoyed customers
- Some fire services may charge for false alarms
- Increased insurance premiums
- Risk to life safety due to staff complacency in real fire
Cost to your reputation:
- Image of complacency about life safety
- Loss of confidence from staff and the fire services
- Risk prosecution/charge
The causes of a false alarm are largely preventable. Common causes of a false alarm include:
- Cooking fumes Steam Smoking materials
- Aerosol sprays
- Hotwork from cutting & wielding
- Dust build-up
- Humidity & temperature change maintenance
- Testing or Accidental or malicious damage to a ‘Break Glass’ point.
Over 27,000 false alarms in London are from commercial or public buildings. However, 10% of systems cause about 80% of false alarms.
The number of false alarms dropped by 25% between 2000 and 2011.
What is the solution?
Regular servicing and maintenance is an important part of limiting a false alarm. Fire alarm systems are made up of fire detectors and the control panel, both of which can be adapted to reduce the risk of false alarms. Fire detectors and manual call points are the frontline of fire safety in your building
Control panels can ‘filter’ signals by:
Switching off parts of the system at certain times of day or when certain things are happening.
Delays can be set to allow the fire warden to check the area before an alarm is sounded and the brigade is rung.
A fire alarm signal is delayed until the control panel receives a second confirmation signal from the same area.
Filtering will slow the response of the fire alarm system so this must only be done following a risk assessment and in consultation with fire alarm professionals.
Article adapted from Fire Industry Association infographic. For more information visit www.fia.uk.com