Fire Alarm Systems provide an early warning of fire and are one of the most effective ways to keep your business, staff and customers safe in the event of a fire.
Unfortunately, most signals from these systems are not actual fires – they are false alarms often caused by cooking fumes, dust or a lack of maintenance. These unwanted fire alarm signals (UFAS) mean our fire crews are called out unnecessarily.
From 1 July 2023, we will stop attending automatic fire alarm (AFA) call outs to commercial business and workplace premises, such as factories, offices, shops and leisure facilities - unless a fire has been confirmed.
Dutyholders with responsibility for workplace premises should safely investigate a fire alarm before calling 999, as our control room operators will now be asking for confirmation of an actual fire, or signs of fire, before sending the nearest resource.
Signs of fire include: visual flame, smell of smoke, smell of burning, or any other fire alarm signal - other than a single smoke detector.
This change does not apply to sleeping premises, such as hospitals, care homes, hotels or domestic dwellings who will continue to get an emergency response.
This follows the SFRS public consultation in 2021 and is estimated to greatly reduce unnecessary call outs in order to free up our firefighters to attend real emergencies and to allow them to do more community safety prevention work.
What do I need to do next?
- As a dutyholder you must ensure that your premises are safe for staff, visitors and occupants in the event of a fire. You have a responsibility under the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 to maintain the facilities and equipment provided. Failure to do this could lead to prosecution.
- Staff and occupants should be made aware of how to respond safely to AFA activations in each premises. It is recommended that you read the guidance Investigating Fire Alarms prepared by the Fire Industry Association. Ignoring them or assuming the fire and rescue service has been notified could put people at risk.
- You should contact your insurance company to discuss the changes in response to AFA activations, but please note that SFRS will always attend a confirmed fire.
- If there is a fire you should always call 999 immediately and follow other specific strategies, such as evacuation and assembly points.
How you can help to reduce false or unwanted alarms
Reviewing your Fire Safety Risk Assessment and keeping a log of all false alarms to identify any trends which should be raised with your alarm engineers.
Creating an action plan to reduce the chance of any false alarm occurring
Check detector types and their locations – would moving detectors or changing the type used reduce activations? Seek advice from your alarm engineer.
Upgrading automatic fire detection (AFD) systems that are obsolete with more modern technology e.g. ‘multi-sensing’ 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
Keeping AFD systems appropriately maintained
Considering whether a link to an Alarm Receiving Centre is necessary or if it is appropriate to suspend the automatic dialling function 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
Reducing Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals - Time for Change - Dutyholder Event
On Monday, 20 February 2023, we held a virtual dutyholder engagement event where 253 attendees joined our session to receive guidance and advice in order to help them to reduce Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals (UFAS) ahead of our change in response from 1 July 2023.
This virtual event was the first external engagement to support workplaces to prevent false alarms by working with those who have a responsibility for fire safety to understand their legal obligations.
We had a full and comprehensive agenda where we offered support and guidance on considerations for fire protection, limiting false alarms, training staff and other relevant measures.
Dutyholders heard from Colin Todd, a leading industry fire and safety expert, who provided guidance and Fire Risk Assessor considerations. We heard from Glasgow Life, a charity-based organisation, who has already prepared for the change and lastly, we heard from Glasgow City Council’s Alarm Receiving Centre as to what support and capabilities they can offer dutyholders.
Attendees were encouraged to direct any unanswered questions to their local fire safety office.
The dutyholder event was recorded and has been made available on our SFRS YouTube channel as an information tool, as well as for accessibility purposes for those unable to attend on the day. Similarly an engagement for Alarm Receiving Centre's held on 20 April 2023 is available on our SFRS YouTube channel.
What are the benefits of reducing false alarms?
- Each false alarm can lead people to become complacent when they hear the fire alarm.
- There is a cost to you as a business from productive time lost.
- SFRS will not be diverted from other emergencies, training and other prevention and protection work.
- Blue light responses lead to road accidents, so any reduction means less risk on our roads.
Further guidance is available in our Your Safety – Business Advice section
If you require further information or advice in relation to the change in our response to Automatic Fire Alarm Actuations from 1st July 2023, then please email SFRS.UFASEnquiries@firescotland.gov.uk
Your local area office can also be contacted.
For specific guidance on eliminating Unwanted Fire alarm actuations, refer to the Fire Industry Association and the National Fire Chiefs Council