Reducing unwanted fire signals

Automatic fire alarms help keep premises and their occupant’s safe by providing an early warning of a possible fire and enabling evacuation. But the vast majority of signals from automatic fire alarms are not actual fires.  When a fire alarm goes off, as a result of anything other than a real fire, this is considered to be an unwanted fire signal.

Fire alarm and detection systems react as a result of either an increase in heat or the presence of smoke. Unfortunately, they also react to things such as steam, vapes, aerosol sprays and cooking fumes.

Consequences of unwanted fire signals:

  • Ties up fire engines and personnel who could be attending real emergencies
  • Can cause disruption to businesses effecting efficiency, profitability and services
  • Frequent false alarms cause staff to become complacent, less willing to act quickly when hearing alarms
  • Repeated calls may result in formal action being taken by Cleveland Fire Authority

How to avoid unwanted fire signals:

  • Ensure the fire risk assessment for your premises is up-to-date and reflects conditions in your premises
  • Ensure your system has been properly designed and installed, and is managed and maintained
  • Ensure you have people designated to take responsibility for managing and maintaining your system
  • Ensure if evacuation is part of your fire safety strategy this is regularly practised and staff are aware
  • Ensure your procedures include the designation of specific staff to check for signs of a fire, when the fire alarm sounds, and if fire is found they call the Brigade using the 999/112 system
  • Ensure false alarms are recorded in the fire alarm log book, including actions taken to prevent a repeat

Responding to false alarms:

Changes to our response to false alarms came in to force in October 2017.  These were expanded in May 2019 and businesses across Cleveland received a letter from the Brigade outlining our changes to our policy. This also advised that some businesses may be exempt from the changes if there are exceptional circumstances. Any request for an exemption due to significant risk must be made by email.

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