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False fire alarm calls warning

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As reported at a recent Fire Safety Seminar in Cambridgeshire, each year in the UK there are many thousands of false or unwanted fire alarms reported to the Emergency Services.

An average year sees about 400,000 false alarm call-outs at a cost to the tax payer of over £1 billion


In addition to the financial cost there is also the potential for loss of life as the Fire Service fail to attend promptly, or at all, to a real fire whilst attending a false alarm.

Whilst it is true that some calls are malicious, and some made with genuine good intent, most are as the result of equipment failure or other issues relating to the fire detection system. These issues are generally related to poor system maintenance or poor initial design.

As a result of this increasing strain on the Fire Brigades, and in an effort to reduce public spending, the authorities introduced The Fire & Rescue Services Act 2004. This piece of legislation came into effect at the same time as The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Combined together, these two new pieces of legislation will impact greatly on the level of response by the local Fire & Rescue Services to fire alarms and, by impact, the quality of system design and maintenance.

Similar to how the Police operate in relation to intruder alarms, the Fire Authorities are beginning to issue Unique Reference Numbers (URNís) to all fire alarm systems connected to Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCís). This is being carried out in stages. The first systems to be issued with a URN will be those from which false alarms are currently being received. This is now happening. Equally, from 1st April 2008, all new fire alarm systems that are connected to an ARC must be designed, installed and commissioned by a third-party accredited company with BS5839-1:2002 within their scope. Eventually, every fire alarm system that is linked to an ARC will be issued with a URN and monitored by the local Fire & Rescue Services.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which came into effect on 1st October 2006, requires everyone to reduce the number of false, or unwanted, alarms to a minimum. It also imposes two important legal requirements upon every business which are to appoint a responsible person and carry out a risk assessment. It is, therefore, the job of the Responsible Person to ensure that all practical steps are taken to reduce the number of false alarms. Ways of doing this include having a third-party accredited company involved with the design, installation and maintenance of your fire alarm system and maintaining your system in accordance with BS5839-1:2002. Additionally you need to manage building changes, train users, optimise your system and upgrade old, obsolete systems. Changes to a remote monitored fire alarm system must now be notified to the local Fire & Rescue Service

David Black of Newflame cautions ďThe responsibility for controlling the number of false alarms rests with the service provider maintaining the system. So their advice must be taken seriously and acted upon. It should be noted that since the introduction of this legislation, there has been a sharp rise in prosecutions by local Fire & Rescue Services. You have been warned!Ē

Peterborough UK Community Website - June 2008




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