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, most signals from these systems are not actual fires – they are false alarms often caused by factors such as cooking fumes, dust and lack of maintenance. If transmitted to us, will generate an unwanted fire alarm signal (UFAS) which subsequently lead to fire crews being called out unnecessarily.
Each year we respond to an average of 28,479 UFAS, accounting for 31% of all the incidents we attend. We send out average of two fire appliances to every UFAS – making around 57,000 unnecessary blue light journeys every year. We felt that we needed to do more to keep the people of Scotland safe and that’s why we held a public consultation in summer 2021 to change our response to automatic fire alarms.
In December 2021, the SFRS Board approved recommendations for implementing a new model for responding to automatic fire alarms (AFAs) in Scotland. Following a 12-week consultation, recommendations were made to the Board that SFRS should adopt Option A with some amendments which reflected the feedback received during the consultation. The recommendations which were presented and subsequently approved by the SFRS Board are:
- Call challenge all AFAs from non-domestic premises, unless exempt.
- No response is mobilised, if questioning confirms there is no fire, or signs of fire.
- Automatic exemption applied to hospitals, is increased to a PDA of two appliances regardless time of day and shall be subject to periodic review.
- Sleeping risk premises are exempt from call challenging and will receive the following immediate response:
- Residential Care Homes receive a PDA of two fire appliances regardless time of day.
- All other sleeping risks receive a PDA of one fire appliance between 0700-1800hrs and two fire appliances out-with these hours.
- Implementation of the preferred option is postponed until April 2023, and
- The COVID-19 interim response to AFAs, will remain in place until go live of the preferred option.
By adopting the above recommendation, it’s estimated that the SFRS will reduce UFAS by 57%. This additional capacity will provide opportunities for reinvesting into areas that will deliver greater value, such as upskilling staff, training and more prevention work. The SFRS Board paper, full consultation report and associated documents are available to view.
What this means for Dutyholders
The SFRS will be making the change through a carefully planned and managed approach. SFRS have made a commitment to work with Dutyholders and others who may be directly affected, to provide advice and guidance on their responsibilities for limiting false alarms from their AFA systems.
An extensive communication strategy involving working with those affected by the change, to prepare them for implementation is under development and will commence early 2022.
A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Section is available to access.
If you require further information or have any queries, then please email: SFRS.EnforcementCentre@firescotland.gov.uk
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 initiatives in 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.