The importance of reducing false fire alarms

By Michala Ford, marketing manager of Safety Technology International (Europe) Ltd

The problem caused by false fire alarms

Every false fire alarm is costly, disruptive and detrimental to safety. Each year businesses and public services in the UK have nearly a quarter of a million false alarms costing them and Fire & Rescue Services approximately £1 billion . Every false fire alarm causes major disruption to customer service, productivity or the general routine of any organisation.

Beyond disruption, false fire alarms have a significant impact on the effectiveness of a fire evacuation strategy and may put the lives of staff, students and visitors at risk. If a genuine fire alarm is mistaken for yet another false alarm, and therefore ignored, the physical consequences for the people involved can range from respiratory difficulties, injury from burns or even death.

Quick and appropriate reactions to a fire alarm may prevent a real fire from causing significant damage and disruption. Companies that suffer a serious fire may never effectively recover and could stop trading.

Measures imposed to reduce false fire alarms

It has been announced that The London Fire Brigade (LFB) will be the first Fire & Rescue Service in the country to charge organisations for calling out its fire fighters to false fire alarms.

From the 1 January 2014, the likes of hospitals, airports and student accommodation will be paying for callouts to false fire alarms.

The £290-plus-VAT penalty, which will not hit domestic properties or care homes, will apply to buildings across London .

Many Fire & Rescue Services across the UK are starting to take a similar approach with varying costly penalties.

Who is responsible for false fire alarms?

Under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order Act 2005, it is the responsibility of the building owner or the ‘responsible person’ to ensure effective fire precautions are in place to pro-tect staff, students or visitors. Several precautionary steps can be implemented to prevent false fire alarms before they occur. Routine testing and maintenance to call points is a must to assure proper operation, but it is not the only proactive approach.

The solution

Protect fire alarm call points against accidental or malicious activation.

Clear, tough polycarbonate covers easily retrofit over existing call points, providing protection within minutes, where accidental activation is of concern. If malicious activation is likely to be a problem, covers with an optional, localised alarm can be installed over a call point. The local alarm sounds when the cover opens and draws immediate attention to the area, but will not hinder legitimate use in the event of an emergency. In the case of an attempted malicious activation, the perpetrator will most likely be taken by surprise and run away, or be apprehended before the main fire alarm sounds.

Accidental false fire alarms (for example, a call point hit by a ball in a sports hall or heavy equipment within a warehouse, etc.) can easily be prevented by installing call point covers. Covers can also provide a level of weather protection from IP24 to IP56, ideal for use in extreme conditions, indoor or outdoor, such as wash down areas and saline atmospheres.