False fire alarm signals cost the UK more than £1billion every year. No wonder then, that these unwanted false alarms are a major concern for both businesses and the Fire & Rescue Services.
So, what causes false alarms and how can we minimise them?
Manual break glass call points are often activated maliciously or through mischievousness. Rarely are false alarms raised through faulty call points. You can take steps to attempt to minimise activations such as:
It may be an option to install manual call points which only authorised people can access. However, this is subject to a comprehensive fire risk assessment, the nature of your business and layout of the premises.
Accidents can regularly cause activations. For example, if the call point is in a place where it’s prone to being hit by delivery cages, then it may be an option to fit call point covers or to reposition the call point in a better location.
Smoke detectors are another common cause of false alarm activations. Airborne pollutants, steam, or dust, along with cooking fumes or insects can all cause a detector to activate. Ensure employees are aware of where detectors are so they can be mindful when carrying out certain tasks. If works are taking place in a specific area, it may be worthwhile isolating that specific fire alarm zone for the duration of the works.
If false alarms from detectors are an issue, you should consider the type of detectors you have installed. Smoke detectors may not be the best choice for all areas of your workplace. With many other options such as beam detectors, heat detectors and air aspirating detectors amongst others, it may be that another type of detector is more suited to specific locations. This could greatly reduce to chances of false alarms.
A regular maintenance programme for your fire alarm system is vital. It’s important to ensure your maintenance service provider has a third party accreditation such as BAFE. This ensures only competent people work on your system, and that it is serviced correctly and checked thoroughly for faults. You should investigate and resolve any faults immediately to ensure correct functioning of the fire alarm system.
Generally, you should replace detectors every 10-15 years, although this varies depending on the manufacturer. When ageing equipment starts to fail, it can become the source of false alarm activations. If this becomes the case and your detectors or main fire alarm panel is beginning to fail, it may be time to weigh up the cost of call out charges and the disruption caused against the cost of a new fire alarm system. Especially if your current system is now obsolete and replacement parts are not readily available.
After you review your call point locations, detector locations and types, and the age of your system, there’s a few other things that can be done.
Not only do false alarms cost money, but they also put lives at risk. Employees can quickly become complacent if false alarms are a regular occurrence. If a real fire occurred, there’s a serious risk that not everyone would make it out of the building in time. And it’s not just your employees that are at risk. There’s a very real chance that the Fire and Rescue Service could be attending a false alarm activation instead of attending to a real fire elsewhere!
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