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 vast majority of signals from these systems are not actual fires – they are false alarms, and if transmitted to us, it will generate an unwanted fire alarm signal (UFAS) which subsequently lead to fire crews being called out unnecessarily.
During 2018/19, we attended over 28,00 false alarms, accounting for 31% of all incidents attended that year. This can cause considerable issues for both businesses and us alike.
UFAS can be dangerous:
- Fire crews need to remain available for real emergencies – Delays in responding could cost lives.
- The 'crying wolf' factor – frequent false alarms in a building cause staff to become complacent and less willing to act quickly when the alarm activates.
- Unnecessary road risk – accidents can happen when travelling at high speed to attend emergency calls. UFAS incidents put the public and fire crews at unnecessary risk.
UFAS are Costly
- Each false alarm results in approximately 27 minutes of business interruption time.
- The cost for us to attend each false alarm is approximately £2,000
- In NHS premises, the estimated cost for false alarms is around £20,000 for 20 minutes of disruption.
- False alarm incidents have a negative impact upon ouroperational training effectiveness and community safety initiatives.
- Attending these incidents also needlessly increase the carbon footprint of our fire appliance movements.
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.
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 initiativesin place to assist with reducing instances of UFAS. ‘TAKE5’ and ‘BE AWARE’ are simple and effective ways of delivering key information to staff and guests, 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.