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Guide to false alarms

20 May 2010

The Fire Industry Association (FIA) has produced guidance to the end user or ‘responsible person’ on the subject of false alarms.

Entitled ‘Guidance for Responsible Persons on False Alarm Management of Fire Detection and Alarm Systems’ , this 15-page document is intended to give general advice on how to manage and reduce false alarms from a building’s fire detection and alarm system. False alarms have long been a cause for major concern and remain one of the biggest challenges facing the fire protection industry, which even today is attempting to find ways of reducing what is an unacceptable waste of resources.  Government statistics put the number of annual false alarms at around half a million and the combined costs to UK industry and the Fire & Rescue services at a figure of £1bn. The FIA has been working together with the fire service for some time, collaborating with the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) and also at local level, to help address the problem.
The FIA publication provides general guidelines to help manage and ultimately to eliminate false alarms from a building’s system.  The formal guide is intended to help the reader to understand that certain legal obligations exist for ensuring the provision and management of fire protection measures within a building and that there is much that can be done to reduce the incidence of false alarms.  It is not a substitute for detailed advice in specific circumstances.
The guide points out the main causes and classifications of false alarms and asks questions of the reader on several major issues.  It questions whether the existing system is fully and properly compliant with current legislation.  It asks if specific persons are responsible for managing the detection system and for the recording of events – genuine and false alarms, faults, tests etc.  The importance of the existence of ‘fire action’ plans, the provision of competent service providers, investigative and rectification processes for erring systems and the way records are kept, are all points that are fully covered.  The guide also provides a list of contacts and further detail on some of the more likely causes of incorrect alarming.
False alarms cost money, waste resources and impact on the trust placed in fire detection systems by ordinary people and the fire services alike. They also divert the attention of the rescue services when there might be a genuine need for their intervention elsewhere.  The new guide is available from the FIA by calling on 020 8549 5855 or by visiting

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