Your Safety

Full Width Image -

FAQs Reducing Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals

FAQs

Are the exemptions only for sleeping risk premises or are there any other category of relevant premises? 

The only premises that will receive an initial response from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) on an alarm activation, are premises that have sleeping accommodation.  

There are no other exemptions to our new policy which will be implemented on 1 July 2023. 

 

If you had multi-sensor detectors would this remove the need for the 999 calls in relation to UFAS and would this mean automatic attendance by the SFRS, as it would be treated as a confirmed fire? 

Where the alarm is raised by a multi-sensor detector, the SFRS will treat this as strong indicator of fire and we will respond. However, every duty holder should have appropriate procedures in place and make a 999 call to confirm a fire where possible. 

 

What is the pre-determined attendance for fast food outlets i.e. chip/kebab shops on the ground floor with domestic premises above (tenements)? 

Fast food outlets and other similar premises below domestic premises will not be exempt. Therefore, the premises will be call challenged and will require to evidence a sign of fire prior to any mobilisation. 

 

Some large organisations are looking into technological solutions to minimise staff costs due to investigation, such as replacement of smoke detectors with multi-sensor detection.

Are SFRS accepting this, as this may mean extended time to alarm in escape routes, and detector spacing may need to be changed to satisfy the spacing recommendations for the least sensitive detection type? 

If the duty holder’s system is sophisticated enough to determine that:

  • a heat detector has activated; or 
  • a multi sensing detector has activated; or 
  • a manual call point has activated; or 
  • Sprinklers have activated; or 
  • multiple detectors have activated (Coincidence) 

then a full pre-determined attendance will be mobilised without need for investigation. 

 

Can alarm receiving centres (ARCs) identify the device which has actuated, or are most only able to report a general fire alarm signal? 

Duty holders should be engaging with their local ARCs to discuss capabilities and ensure that the systems meet the requirements to identify strong indicators of fire.  

 

If a school is unoccupied when the fire signal is sent to the ARC, will the SFRS attend when there is no one on site to ‘call confirm’? 

Every duty holder will require to confirm that there is a sign of fire either from the ARC or direct from the premises. 

 

If an alarm is activated at a non-domestic, non-exempt property outside of normal business hours when a property is unoccupied and the only information available to the alarm receiving centre (ARC) is that there has been an alarm activation, i.e., unable to confirm a fire or sign of fire, would the SFRS response be delayed until a keyholder can attend the site and investigate the source of the alarm? 

Yes.  Callers/alarm receiving centres (ARCs) will be asked to establish if there is a fire or signs of fire and asked to call back.  The SFRS will not respond to calls generated from automated systems in non-exempt premises unless an investigation has been carried out, or other information is provided confirming that there is a sign of a fire. 

 

How will call challenging work with regards to a single alarm system covering multiple buildings? i.e. many hospitals have a building for sleeping, separate building for admin etc all covered under the one alarm panel.   

Will control operators have to question where the alarm has activated in and make the decision with regards to an attendance or not? 

Where there is no sleeping risk within the building, the SFRS will call challenge. It is the duty holder's responsibility to ensure appropriate fire safety arrangements are in place, this may include an investigation or technological solution. Arrangements will vary depending on premises type.

 

Will SFRS accept ‘double knock’ technology as a way to confirm activations without call confirm? 

Where an ARC receives a signal from a premise, as a result of coincidence operation, the SFRS will treat this as a sign of fire.

The alarm must be from at least two independent input triggering signals at the same time. NOTE: This is not to be mistaken for “double knock”, which is a colloquial term often used for an arrangement whereby an output is given only when two successive signals are received from the same device.  A back up 999 call should be made wherever possible. 

Where two successive signals are received from the same smoke detector there will need to be further investigation and a 999 call prior to SFRS attending. 

 

Obviously, all sleeping risks are exempt from this reduced turn out. However, for example NHS has a lot of mixed sites under one name. Some of these sites have sleeping blocks but also ancillary buildings. If the NHS switch board call back to SFRS control to say it let's say in a laundry block and no fire found but alarm operating. Will the response be cancelled? 

Where there is no sleeping risk within the building, the SFRS will call challenge. Every duty holder should have appropriate procedures in place and call 999 to confirm a fire where possible.

 

Occupied non-residential premises – does SFRS expect a ‘pre-check process’ by dutyholders prior to calling 999?  If yes, what will this consist of? 

It is the duty holder's responsibility to ensure appropriate fire safety arrangements are in place, this may include an investigation or technological solution. Arrangements will vary depending on premises type. 

 

For a non-occupied, non-residential premise – what will SFRS accept from a 999 call by an ARC?  2 activated detector heads?   

Callers/ARCs will be asked to establish if there is a fire, or signs of fire, and asked to call back.  The SFRS will not respond to calls generated from automated systems in non-exempt premises unless an investigation has been carried out or other information is received indicating that there is a sign of a fire. 

 

What will SFRS’s response be to non-occupied premises which has no automatic fire detection installed? 

Where there is no automatic fire detection in place, the SFRS will ask the caller if there is a fire or signs of fire confirmed prior to mobilising. 

Further guidance 

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.co.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

To find out more on our business advice: