The Home Office recently released detailed fire statistics, providing insights into the kind of fire incidents and the number of false alarms attended by fire and rescue services in England between April 2017 and March 2018. In that period there were 564,827 incidents: an increase of 1% on the previous year (560,453). That statistic refers to all incidents though: the number of actual fires attended was 167,150 – a 3% increase on the previous year. It’s encouraging to see that the overall trend has been one of reduction in the number of fires – a 43% decrease compared with ten years ago (there were 293,920 in 2007/08). But the fact remains that fires continue to injure and cause fatalities.  The new figures show an increase in the number of fatalities and non-fatal casualties requiring hospital treatment compared to last year: 334 fatalities compared to the previous year’s 263 and 3,306 non-fatal casualties compared to 3,128. The tragedy at Grenfell Tower did, of course, have a significant impact on those figures. What about the other 397,677 incidents? Focusing on reducing the number of fires that occur, and finding ways to reduce their impact if they do, is without question a number one priority. And the fire and rescue services don’t only deal with fire incidents. They were called out to a further 172,052 non-fire incidents to provide assistance in emergencies like road traffic accidents and supporting rescue efforts in situations such as flooding. But it’s also important to look at what else these figures are telling us and to consider what we can do to play a part in reducing all of the statistics downwards. There were 225,625 incidents where the fire and rescue services responded to what turned out to be false alarms.  It may only have been a one per cent increase compared with the previous year (223,896) but it means that of all the incidents the fire and rescue services attended, virtually 40% of them were false alarms. In other words, they spent a huge amount of their time attending incidents when, quite simply, they didn’t need to be there. That’s time that could have been spent doing preventative work to reduce the number of actual fires. There’s an urgent need to take steps to deal with this problem. It’s obviously an issue for fire and rescue services and it’s also an issue for businesses and organisations too. Every false alarm is costly and disruptive. Even worse is the fact that people might become quite casual about their response to an alarm if they don’t believe it’s an actual emergency. Once you start appreciating the full extent of the impact of these incidents, it becomes evident that everyone has a responsibility to do what they can to reduce false alarms. What can you do to minimise false fire alarms?
  • Fire alarms can trigger as result of faulty equipment or equipment that’s incorrectly located so get your fire alarm system checked and maintained by a competent person. Make sure your alarm’s still fit for purpose if there’s a change of use to your building.
  • It may sound strange but flea collars around smoke detector heads can help reduce instances of triggering due to insect infiltration.
  • If building work is taking place, or if there’s any temporary activity that may set off your alarms, implement steps such as using temporary detector covers or isolating zones.
  • If you’ve had more than one false alarm, log all the details to help you investigate the cause and identify any patterns. If malicious activity might be an issue, you could install clearly signed CCTV cameras
It may simply be that your current system is aging and needs replacement. Fire alarm technology has improved rapidly and many of the latest systems on the market have virtually eradicated the risk of false alarms. If you’re having ongoing problems with false alarms, this might be an option worth considering. Please do get in touch with us if you’d like some more information about how you can reduce false alarms - and help bring those statistics down while you’re at it.