Analysis of Home Office reasons for false fire alarms

May 23rd, 2018

The Home Office collects detailed information on incidents attended by the Fire and Rescue Services which are published on the www.gov.uk website. This includes reasons for false fire alarms.

One of the statistics that Tecserv UK is particularly interested in are the statistics related to call outs that end up being classified as false alarm activations.

When trying to analyse reasons for false fire alarms, the data we have reviewed are the records that reached the IRS by 7 December 2017, which are based on the figures reported for the year ending September 2017.

In total, there were a staggering 223,000 alarm activations that resulted in the fire and rescue services classifying them as a false alarm.

Although 66,000 of these fire alarm call outs were signalled with good intent, i.e. the detector correctly sensed the main signals of fire such as heat, smoke or condensation – it still means that there were 157,000 activations that could, potentially, have been avoided!

Further analysis of the figures showed that malicious acts such as fake calls to 999 or deliberately setting off the alarm by smashing call points resulted in 7,100 call out.

Call out due to ‘apparatus’ were the reason behind 149,300 of the false alarms.

Of these, 64,500 call outs were caused by humans or animals accidentally setting fire alarms off or from smoking too near to detectors, burning toast, cooking , bbq’s and bonfires.

A further 20,000 were caused by contaminants activating the fire alarm detectors such as steam, chemicals or dust.

External factors such as storms or power surges triggered a further 2,100 activations.

The remaining 78,600 activations were caused by system errors related to poor maintenance, damaged equipment, and incorrect positioning of detectors.

Whilst these statistics relate to ‘all’ fire call outs, which will include both domestic and commercial premises, there is a great deal of cost, not to mention inconvenience and reputational damage associated with a false fire alarm call out. In addition, repeated fire service call outs could affect the response you receive from the emergency services to an alarm activation.

It has always been the case that the emergency services will downgrade their response to a fire alarm call out to businesses where it has repeatedly attended automatic fire alarm calls where the call out has turned out to be an unwanted fire alarm signal (UwFS).

However, more recently, a number of Fire & Rescue Services have amended their Policy and Procedures for dealing with automatic fire alarm calls (AFA) and it is likely that other Fire & Rescue Services across the UK already have, or will make, similar changes, such that fire crews will not respond to any automatic fire alarm calls (AFAs) at the majority of business premises (including schools) unless a caller at the building reasonably believes that there is a fire.

The change means that a ‘999’ call will need to be made from someone at the premises, who reasonably believes that a fire has broken out. Only then will fire engines respond

Through education and ensuring our clients commercial fire alarm systems are well maintained, Tecserv UK goes to great pains to prevent our clients from experiencing unwanted fire alarm activations. We also regularly publish advice and tips to help prevent false fire alarm activations.

The full set of fire statistics releases, tables and guidance can be found on the gov.uk website.

If you would like to discuss how Tecserv UK can help your business avoid unwanted fire alarm activations, please get in touch.