Updated advice issued for businesses and dutyholders

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Dutyholders are being asked to check their fire safety plans to help keep staff and firefighters safe - and avoid placing an unnecessary strain on emergency services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Automatic fire alarm (AFA) systems are key to protecting communities as they provide early warning of fire within business premises and can automatically summon assistance from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Whilst in some circumstances this can be beneficial, the majority of AFAs, an average of 28,000 each year, turn out to be false alarms which means fire crews are turned out unnecessarily to what is categorised as an Unwanted Fire Alarm Signal (UFAS).

This places a significant demand on front line resources at an “unprecedented time”, says SFRS Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Alasdair Perry.

He is also reminding dutyholders of the need to maintain social distancing measures to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. Staff and firefighters could be placed at needless risk by having to investigate the cause of any UFAS which may have been generated by harmless steam or a toaster.

DACO Perry further advises dutyholders that from Wednesday, May 6 they will receive a normal or slightly amended response to an AFA with a single appliance responding to some premises such as offices, shops, sports centres and banks for example – unless this is supported by a 999 call confirming a fire.

A normal response will continue to apply to sleeping accommodation such as hospitals, care homes, hostels and hotels and other specific high-risk premises such as oil refineries and heritage properties. 

DACO Perry said: “This is an unprecedented time as we all pull together to keep people safe and there is absolutely no doubt that dutyholders across the country can play a key role in that effort.

“We would make clear that through robust and flexible strategic planning, our crews are always ready to respond to any incident to keep our communities safe.

“But we are calling upon dutyholders to be more diligent than ever around their fire safety arrangements and review, where necessary, their fire risk assessments to ensure our resources are not diverted away from where they are needed most.

“I am sure we also share a common goal in wanting to ensure staff and firefighters are not placed unnecessarily at risk at a time when social distancing has to be observed.”

He added: “It is likely that many existing fire action plans do include the need to follow up an AFA actuation with a direct 999 call to ourselves to confirm a fire or false alarm. Where it does not, we strongly recommend this is included - regardless of this change. 

“We also recommend that all dutyholders keep in contact with their fire alarm engineer to ensure they can continue to maintain the AFA system and provide emergency cover in the event of a fault.”

Dutyholders can take a number of steps to reduce UFAS with support and assistance from the SFRS:

  • Do not mistake fire alarm break glass points for GREEN door exit points
  • Do not smoke or vape inside the building or in your room
  • Take care when using toasters, kettles, dryers, straighteners
  • Steam can set off alarms, so keep bathroom doors closed and extractor fans on when using baths, showers and sinks
  • Never remove, cover up or damage smoke or heat detector heads to prevent them activating
  • Know your escape route and the location of your closest fire exit
  • Never wedge fire doors open and close doors behind you when evacuating
  • Further information and advice is available from local SFRS enforcement offices: /your-safety/for-businesses/contact-your-local-fire-safety-enforcement-office.aspx
  • For more information on how to prevent UFAS: plus follow the new social media channels.
  • A short video made in conjunction with the National Fire Chief’s Council about UFAS reduction measures can be found at

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