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Fire alarms save lives. They're a vital part of your prevention and detection strategy, and one of the best ways to keep people safe in your premises. On this page you can learn about fire alarm best practice for businesses and places that aren't homes, and how to avoid false alarms.
London Fire Brigade attended around 38,000 false alarms in 2017. That’s around 104 every day in London alone. We may soon charge for these visits – find out more.
Our fire safety team are experts in helping organisations from small businesses to charities to football teams stay fire safe. Here are their suggestions when it comes to installing and maintaining a fire alarm system.
It's really important to keep your fire alarm system properly maintained – if you don't looked after it properly, it might fail to warn of a fire.
A regular maintenance schedule and effective local management will ensure the alarm can do its job. Make sure the maintainer is competent (and accredited) and that the schedule, combined with local alarm management practices is effective.
Considering your fire alarm system (and its on-going management) is an important part of your Fire Risk Assessment – is generally required under fire safety law. It will also play a role in your Emergency Plan.
There's a people element to all this, too. Be sure to test the system regularly, run suitable fire drills, train the staff according to needs and resolve system faults as soon as possible, ensuring interim measures are applied if the system is compromised.
If you have a stay-put strategy or a phased evacuation, make sure this is supported by your risk assessment process to make sure it isn’t compromised by any ongoing building maintenance/works. If the fire alarm system may be isolated in areas of works, make sure you have put in place alternative means of a fire alert.
Did you know that the vast majority of signals from automatic fire alarms are not actual fires? Fire alarm and detection systems react to an increase in heat or the presence of smoke. Unfortunately, they can also react to things such as steam, cigarette smoke, aerosol sprays, and light smoke from cooking.
We understand that false alarms happen – but you should take care to reduce the likelihood, and if there is a false alarm, take appropriate action.
Tragically, people have died thinking a real fire was ‘just another false alarm’. Most false alarms are the result of an activity such as cooking, smoking or hot works or sometimes simply because the system was not taken off-line when being tested.
It’s important to minimize the false alarms to prevent complacency. If false alarms occur, it’s important not to unnecessarily transmit them to London Fire Brigade.
Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to reduce false alarms. Much of it is simple common sense – and part of your legal responsibilities already.
Make sure the fire alarm design suits the premises design and use.
Make sure the alarm system is properly and regularly maintained
Investigate false alarms and work with maintainers to build in measures that prevent unnecessary recurrence.
Introduce a suitable filtering process – a means to safely investigate why the fire alarm went off BEFORE calling for the fire brigade.
Consult with suitable professionals for relevant advice.
Don’t forget you can talk to us if you’re struggling to resolve the problem and need guidance.
New detectors have improved technology and can measure a range of conditions to potentially be more effective at detecting a fire condition (if it's a real fire or not). Make sure your maintainer uses these in appropriate conditions to help reduce false alarms.
Another great idea is the pre-alarm. This is a staff alert to investigate before the general alarm sounds. This reduces the disruptive impact of false alarms on you organisation, and can save lives by preventing the unnecessary attendance of our firefighters.
Some fire brigades now require a confirmed fire before they send a response. We don't do this, but can understand this decision given the number of false alarms we receive every year. Find out more about responding to automatic fire alarms – and repeated false alarms
Find out more about your responsibilities – and find help and advice.