Why Avoiding False Fire Alarms is so Important

London Fire Brigade has named the buildings in the capital that they received the most call outs for false alarms from last year.

Approximately a third of all 96,599 calls to the fire services over the past 12 months were false alarms, which works out at 1 every 15 minutes. Out of the top 10 locations revealed, 9 of these were hospitals, with St George’s Hospital in South London as the worst offender, having had 168 call outs as a result of false alarms in 2014.

Infographic showing LFB statistics on false alarm call outs

Charge for false fire brigade call outs

Since January 2014, London Fire Brigade has been charging for false alarm call outs with £295 fines handed out for the tenth false alarm at the same site and all subsequent timewasting calls after. It’s estimated that this has cost the NHS nearly £200,000 so far and although the number of false alarms resulting in actual call outs has fallen, more must be done to tackle the causes.

Top causes of false alarms

The fire brigade has been working to establish the main reasons behind false alarm activations. Findings show that 36% of incidents are resulting from fire alarm systems that automatically alert the fire services.

Activations can occur from something as trivial as smoke from burnt toast. Other top causes include steam, aerosol sprays, dust from building work and bugs nesting in detectors. Users are often responsible for causing false alarms too, via either accidental or malicious activation of call points.

Faults in the system, water leaks, poor alarm maintenance and even having the wrong type of fire alarm system in place from the start can also be ultimately responsible for unnecessary setting alarms off.

Why are false alarms so dangerous?

Put simply, false alarms can cost lives. Not only do they waste firefighter’s time and delay their attendance to real fires, they can also cause people to become complacent and not react upon hearing the fire alarm sound. Fatalities have been caused by people believing that it was ‘just another false alarm’ and failing to evacuate in the event of actual danger.

In locations, such as hospitals, schools and shopping centres where there are a large number of people on the premises, the threat becomes even greater. When a fire occurs, every second counts and any delay to evacuation can result in tragedy.

How can false fire alarms be prevented?

Reducing the number of false alarms is an important obligation for all organisations. Once the root causes have been established, then you can set about tackling them. Prevention may be as simple as putting plastic covers over fire call points, to stop accidental activation, or installing CCTV as a deterrent to pranksters.

Regular maintenance of fire alarm systems is also essential in fixing faults and stopping a build-up of dust on detectors from triggering the alarm. Your fire risk assessment should cover how often your alarms must be checked over.

Addressable fire alarm systems reduce false alarms

If false alarms are a regular occurrence, then perhaps installing an addressable fire alarm system on your premises would be advisable. The system allows ‘pre fire warnings’ that don’t ‘result in full activation, therefore if air in the detector is contaminated by dust for example, the staged warnings mean that you can investigate the issue before it causes a false alarm.

Need to reduce false fire alarms?

We can provide advice on fire alarm installation and maintenance to help you choose the most appropriate type of alarm system and maintenance plan.

Call us today on 08000 515 199.

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