Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals (UFAS)
Fire Alarm Systems are designed to provide an early warning of fire and give as much time as possible for people to escape from a building prior to a fire taking hold. Within the workplace, they form a vital part of any fire safety strategy and remain one of the most effective ways to keep your business, staff and customers safe from the effects of fire.
Unfortunately, the majority of signals from these systems are not actual fires – they are false alarms. If transmitted to us will generate an unwanted fire alarm signal (UFAS) which subsequently lead to fire crews being called out unnecessarily.
Every year we respond to an average of 28,479 false alarms, accounting for 31% of all incidents attended that year. We believe we could do more to keep the people of Scotland safe if we change how we respond to UFAS. That's why we are holding a 12-week public consultation on UFAS as we are committed to solving this problem in conjunction with our key partners, stakeholders and the people of Scotland.
UFAS can be dangerous:
- Whilst firefighters are investigating the cause of the alarm, they are prevented from attending real emergencies. Delays in responding could cost lives.
- Frequent false alarms in a building cause staff to become complacent and less willing to act quickly when the alarm activates.
- By undertaking around 57,000 unnecessary blue light journeys every year, we are increasing road risk for our firefighters, members of the public and road users whilst travelling at high speed to UFAS.
UFAS are Costly
- Each false alarm results in approximately 27 minutes of business interruption time.
- This equates to 64,000 productive hours lost each year responding to UFAS.
- Inevitably, this lost productivity causes significant disruption to our training, fire safety and community safety work.
- Attending these incidents also needlessly increases our carbon footprint from our fire appliance movements by producing around 575 tonnes of carbon emissions.
Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to reduce false alarms. Much of it is simple common sense and already part of your legal responsibilities under the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005.
How your business can reduce UFAS incidents by:
- Reviewing your Fire Safety Risk Assessment and Fire Alarm log book to determine your false alarm figures and identify any trends.
- Creating an action plan to reduce the chance of any false alarm occurring
- Check detector types and their locations – would moving them even slightly make a difference to activations? Is the system installed of a suitable type and appropriate to risk? Seek advice from your alarm engineer.
- Upgrading automatic fire detection systems that are obsolete with more modern technology e.g. ‘multi-sensor’ detectors
- Fitting manual call points with protective plastic covers in problem, vulnerable or high traffic areas
- Ascertaining whether any false alarms are a result of activating the wrong call points such as green emergency door release points
- Instigating staff alarms wherever possible (in consultation with ourselves)
- Keeping AFD systems appropriately maintained
- Considering whether a link to an Alarm Receiving Centre is necessary. Can links be removed whilst buildings are occupied or at certain times of the day?
- Seeking further guidance and advice from their alarm system provider or servicing agent as well as their local legislative fire safety officer
- Educating staff is an effective way of reducing false alarms and stopping fire crews responding to UFAS incidents.
We have two initiatives in place to assist with reducing instances of UFAS. ‘TAKE5’ and ‘BE AWARE’ are simple and effective ways of delivering key information to everyone who uses, visits or works in premises such as hotels, shops, residential care homes and hospitals, allowing them to consider their actions in buildings.
We are keen to support businesses to ensure they have the appropriate advice to assist them with reducing false alarms.
Further information on reducing false alarms can be obtained from the Fire Industry Association publication - Guidance for Responsible Persons on False Alarm Management of Fire Detection and Alarm Systems.