Unwanted Fire Signals Letter – August 2020

Your Ref:

Our Ref: UwFS

Date: 12th August 2020

Chief Fire Officer

Ian Hayton

When telephoning ask for:

Fire Engineering Helpdesk

Tel: (01429) 872311 Ext. 4109

Email: fireengineeringhelpdesk@clevelandfire.gov.uk

Dear Sir/Madam

Changes in responding to fire alarm calls generated by Automatic Fire Alarm systems

Cleveland Fire Brigade (CFB) is committed to ‘Protecting Local Communities’.

As part of this commitment CFB will assist organisations in reducing the economic cost of lost productivity and business disruption due to false alarms generated by actuations of their Automatic Fire Alarm (AFA) systems.

CFB class the actuation of an AFA which has not been caused by a fire as an Unwanted Fire Signal (UwFS).  The reduction in the number of UwFS will have a positive economic impact on the business community and other sectors.  The effect on the commercial sector alone in lost time, business disruption and productivity caused by false alarms is estimated, nationally to be in excess of £1 billion each year.  (HM Government study 2004).

CFB had up until Oct 2017, responded to all AFA’s generated with the full risk assessed Pre-Determined Attendance for each premises, treating each alarm as a full emergency.

This had an adverse effect on the premises in that each time an UwFS is generated an evacuation commences, together with the response time of CFB, the time taken to investigate the actuation and the time taken to repopulate the premises after the system is reset, all increases the economic cost to the organisation due to lost production/time and impacts upon business continuity.

There is no legal responsibility for any Fire and Rescue Service to respond to calls originating from an AFA system – to establish if there is a fire.

It is the legal responsibility as detailed within the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005 of the ‘Responsible Person’ at the property to have in place a Fire Risk Assessment that details amongst other measures what actions are to be taken upon actuation of the AFA system.

One such action is to investigate the reason for the actuation of the AFA system and then notify the Fire Brigade via the 999 system if a fire is confirmed.

The Unwanted Fire Signals Strategy introduced in 2017, in its original format, has resulted in a 24% reduction on the same period 2017-18 / 2018-19 and a reduction of 39% evident from 2016-17 to 2018-19.

Following the success of the strategy it is the Brigade’s intention to further expand the scope of the strategy to cover a full 24 hours period, 7 days a week, having due consideration to the type of premises and times of opening/operation, will mean further reductions could be attained.   

In September this year Cleveland Fire Authority resolved to amend the Fire Brigades response, on a trial basis, to fire calls generated by Automatic Fire Alarm systems.

I have made the following decisions in relation to implementation of the change in response:

  • The change in response will commence from September 1st 2020, for a period of twelve months.
  • Cleveland Fire Brigade will not attend AFA’s to low and medium risk premises covering a full 24 hours period, 7 days a week (including Bank Holidays), unless a backup call is received from the premises via the 999 system, confirming there is a fire, or that physical signs of fire exist. If the premises are unoccupied, then a single appliance will be mobilised for investigation purposes.

Risk Categorisation:

  • Low or Medium Risk premises – This applies to the following premises;
  • Industrial premises
  • Business premises
  • Commercial premises
  • Schools
  • Public buildings
  • Leisure complexes
  • Hotels
  • Halls of Residence
  • Residential Care Premises (0900-1800)
  • Any premises determined as High or Special risk will receive one Fire Appliance for investigation purposes.
  • Cleveland Fire Brigade will not attend Automatic Fire Alarms from Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs) covering a full 24 hours unless they are backed up with a 999 call from premises to either the ARC or to Fire Control.
  • Premises whose fire alarm system is configured to ‘double knock’ principles may (following consultation with CFB Fire Engineering Department) receive full emergency response.
  • Where the premises can demonstrate that there are exceptional circumstances for that premises to receive a full AFA PDA then an exemption may be granted.  Any request for an exemption due to significant risk will be considered by CFB.

The onus is on the responsible person to submit the case to CFB.  The case must be based upon the high risk to persons resulting from the CFB UwFS policy.  The premises must demonstrate good management of their fire alarm systems.

All single private domestic dwellings and sheltered housing (including bungalows and flats) are exempt from the conditions outlined above.

For any further information please visit www.clevelandfire.gov.uk/business/fire-alarms/ or contact Fire Engineering Helpdesk on 01429 872311.

Yours faithfully

CHIEF FIRE OFFICER