False Fire Alarms continue to cost the UK


    According to the latest Home Office figures, more than 2,600 false fire alarms were maliciously activated across England in 2019/20. Such false alarms disrupt schools and businesses and place an unnecessary strain on our emergency services, as well as reducing the confidence the general public have in fire alarms.

    Accidental activations also remained a significant cause of false alarms during 2020.  14,606 false fire alarms were recorded due to the accidental and careless activation of life safety devices.

    Continuing to be the largest incident type, false fire alarms accounted for 42% of the incidents attended by Fire and Rescue Services in England in 2020 - costing the UK over £1 billion a year- while actual fires accounted for just 28% of incidents.

    The five major causes of false alarms given by fire brigades are:

    • Incorrect or poorly designed systems
    • Fumes from cooking or burnt food
    • Steam, aerosols and other fumes activating the detectors
    • The build-up of dust on a detector, caused perhaps by building work or air conditioning outlets
    • Accidental damage to a 'break glass' point

    Having fully functioning, fully tested, and maintained fire alarm systems is key to preventing false alarms. All fire alarm equipment - including the smoke and heat detectors, the sounders, beacons, and relays - should be installed and tested by a competent person such as a BAFE qualified engineer.A major part of BS5839-1 is the need to design the system to reduce or eliminate false alarms.

    It is also very important that all components of the fire alarm - including all the detectors - are fully tested regularly and certainly at least once a year. Dust can build up on detectors as a result of air conditioning outlets or building work for example and as stated above, this is one of the five major causes of fire false alarms according to fire brigades.

    At Fire Depot we stock the Testifier range of testers to ensure that detector servicing is completed efficiently and safely. The Testifier alarm testing equipment is uniquely capable of producing smoke, heat, and CO stimuli. The tools offer fast and cost-effective compliance with test standards (BS 5839) and address RRFSO legislative issues concerning proof of competence.

    Also, as recommended in BS 5839-1:2017 manual call points (MCPs) can be fitted with a protective cover to prevent accidental damage causing false fire alarms. The British Standard Institute recommends in section 20.2b) that: ‘All MCPs should be fitted with a protective cover, which is moved to gain access to the frangible elements.’

    Fire Depot has been the UK's favourite fire safety supplier for over 50 years.  Our experienced team can offer advice and guidance about any product or fire safety application. For expert help and advice, please contact the Fire Depot team on 0330 999 2233, email us at sales@firedepot.co.uk or visit www.firedepot.co.uk to see our full range of fire safety products.

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