Responding to automatic fire alarm (AFA) activations that subsequently turn out to be unwanted fire signals has been identified as a major draw on our resources, resulting in an inappropriate use of emergency crews and equipment.
Such activations cause resources to be diverted away from other, more important, activities, making them potentially unavailable to respond to genuine emergency calls.
Unwanted fire signals have a major impact on the Service and cause concern, as they:
- Render fire crews unavailable, creating the possibility of delayed attendance to genuine emergency calls.
- Create unnecessary risk to fire crews and members of the public when fire appliances respond under emergency conditions.
- Are disruptive to planned work, particularly training and community fire safety activities.
- Can cause a false expectation amongst personnel, especially those attending high numbers of false alarms.
- Impose significant financial burdens on the Service.
- Have a negative impact on employers who release on-call firefighters working the retained duty system.
- Cause problems for the occupiers of affected premises through lost production and general disruption to business continuity.
- Cause complacency among employees, reducing the effectiveness of automatic fire alarms by delaying the initiation of emergency procedures.
- Indicate other failings may exist within the premises’ fire safety management.
A properly designed and maintained automatic fire detection system provides early warning of fire. However, a badly designed or poorly maintained system can become a potential hazard due to inappropriate or unwanted activations.
Management procedures should be set in place as part of an emergency plan. Suitably trained personnel should investigate the cause of the alarm activation before calling the fire and rescue service (with the notable exception of residential care providers who should not allow these procedures to cause undue delay in calling 999).