North of Scotland firefighters attended more than 6,600 unwanted false alarms last year

Firefighters across the North of Scotland responded to more than 6,600 unwanted fire alarm signals last year - the equivalent of around 18 a day.

The figure has been revealed as the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) gets ready to change the way it responds to unwanted fire alarm signals (UFAS). 

From 1 July, 2023 an alarm activation will require those with fire safety responsibility, known as dutyholders, to investigate the cause of an alarm and only call 999 once a fire has been confirmed. This approach is already embedded across several other UK fire and rescue services, who require a confirmed fire before they send fire appliances.  

The change in response will affect all premises and businesses who do not provide sleeping accommodation. Hospitals, care homes, hotels, student accommodation and domestic dwellings will continue to receive the current level of emergency response.  

Workplaces are being reminded to provide adequate training for staff on the new process and put in place fire safety provisions.  

Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Stephen Wood is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Head of Service Delivery for the North of Scotland. 

He said: "We will continue to work with dutyholders to help them better understand their obligations, but I must stress the importance of having adequate training in place for staff and ensuring appropriate fire safety provisions are in place within your premises. 

"By changing our response to these types of incidents, we can potentially free up 64,000 hours every year giving firefighters more time for other activities, such as training and fire safety prevention work.  

“There are benefits to businesses too by preventing these incidents from happening in the first place. On average, every unwanted fire alarm signal interrupts business for around 27 minutes each time.” 

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s North region covers areas including Tayside, Aberdeenshire and Moray, Highland, as well as the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland. 

CBRE Property Management is one of the firms who have worked in tandem with the SFRS to prepare for the change in emergency response. 

The company, who manage Aberdeen's notable Marischal Square complex, have taken steps to ensure processes are in place to ensure the safety of their tenants and workforce. 

Tony Walker is the Building Manager of Marischal Square. 

He said: “As part of the upcoming change in response to automatic fire alarms, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service engaged us to support our process in managing the change to future alarms. 

"Through engagement with their expert in this process, we were able to capture and implement changes to our internal process as to ensure we are managing our systems in line with the service provided and ensure safe, reliable operations for our tenants and workforce.  

"That insight and support was invaluable in allowing CBRE to effectively manage the property for their client and tenants.” 

Unfortunately, most signals from automatic fire alarm systems are not actual fires – they are false alarms often caused by cooking fumes, dust or a lack of maintenance. This means our fire crews are called out unnecessarily. 

This change in response to unwanted fire alarms creates capacity for operational crews to respond to real emergencies, whilst reducing the road risk and the impact on the environment caused by fire appliances making unnecessary blue light journeys.  

Across the whole of Scotland, the number of UFAS incidents during 2022 was around 30,000, which is the equivalent of around 80 a day. 

The forthcoming changes on 1 July 2023 follow the outcome of a public consultation held in 2021. The business advice pages on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service website has guidance to help dutyholders get ready.