Reducing unwanted fire signals

Automatic fire alarms help keep premises and their occupants 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 (unwanted fire signals) came in to force in October 2017.  These were expanded in May 2019. Following the success of the extension of this strategy and an impact assessment the Brigade is looking to further reduce the number of false alarms that operational crews attend.

To achieve this we will be carrying out a trial from 1 September 2020 for 12 months which will see us expand the timeframes of the strategy to cover a 24 hour period 7 days a week. This will mean that Cleveland Fire Brigade will not attend Accidental Fire Alarm’s to low and medium risk premises, unless a backup call is received from the premises via the 999 system, confirming there is a fire.

If the call is received via an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) they will need to confirm that no persons are present on the premises to investigate the cause of the alarm prior to the Brigade mobilising a fire engine.   

High risk, special risk and residential properties will receive a fire engine to investigate the cause of the alarm. 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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