Fire Industry Association calls for drive to cut down on false fire alarms

Throughout the world there’s a problem with false alarms from automatic fire detection systems. In the UK, this problem has been brought squarely under the spotlight due to the Localism Bill.

Indeed, the London Fire Brigade announced in January 2014 that it was to begin charging businesses for call-outs if the Brigade attends more than ten false alarms in a twelve-month period. Over 100 invoices were issued within the first 120 days of the new regime.

However, it’s not all bad news in relation to false alarms as UK Government figures show that there has been a steady decline in false alarm numbers over the past ten years set against the backdrop of ever-more systems being installed.

Nevertheless, everybody agrees that false alarms are a total waste of the Fire and Rescue Services’ and end users’ time, let alone the money that’s involved.

In view of the continuing false alarm situation, the Fire Sector Federation Technology Workstream has brought together a group of stakeholders, including the Fire Industry Association (FIA), to look at the problem in general. Its remit is to clearly identify the problem, look at the data and accurately determine the cause of false alarms, examine what technology is available to provide reliable fire detection and, having proven that improvements can be economically made to the fire alarm system, set about changing the way in which fire detection is presently used in the built environment.

Once possible causes for false alarms have been established, the next step is to find ways of using technology to help solve the issue. In order to do this, it will be necessary to identify problem sites and bring the relevant technology – such as recent systems software updates – to bear.

Graham Simons, the FIA’s technical manager, told Risk UK: “A major key to success will be the management of the site and the commitment of occupiers to change what happens in their building. The possibility of Fire and Rescue Services charging may help focus management’s attention here. Other techniques that can be used are on-site filtering, fire warden investigation, the linking of fire and intruder systems and multi-criteria fire detectors. The latter can be used to overcome many issues.”

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service reports drop in number of fire incidents for 2015

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service states that the number of fires in 2014-2015 fell by 11%, continuing the general downward trend of the past decade. Figures report 25,002 fires in Scotland, down from 27,979 in 2013-2014.

However, there were 41 reported fire fatalities in 2014-2015, representing an increase on the all-time low of 33 reported for the previous year.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service claims that the number of fatal casualties in fires is prone to fluctuation because the numbers are small and, while this figure is higher than in 2013-2014, it’s the second lowest statistic during the past decade.

It’s also believed that ten of the people who died had used fire as a way of killing themselves. In previous years, there had been between two and four fire fatalities each year that were found to be suicides.

The number of accidental dwelling fires increased by 6%, from 4,682 fires in 2013-2014 to 4,953 in 2014-2015. These were at the second lowest level in the decade.

Nine out of ten of the dwelling fires were accidental, while deliberate dwelling fires continued a downward trend at 618 occurrences (compared with 649 in the previous 12 months).

False alarms accounted for six out of ten incidents attended by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, more than any other incident type.

The total number of false alarms – related to fire or special service incidents – increased by 3% from 2013-2014 to 2014-2015 (up from 47,719 to 49,262). This end result is thought to have been driven by equipment, which increased by 6% and may, in part, reflect an upsurge in the number of alarms fitted in Scotland (though further analysis is required).

Review of the Act

A review into Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 has been carried out by the Scottish Regulatory Review Group. The review follows on from initial concerns raised about sections relating to the implementation of the new fire safety regime for smaller businesses, and takes in evidence from an online questionnaire, written material and two workshops held to gain the views of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service enforcement staff.

The report states: “The overall conclusion from the evidence gathered is that the legislation is broadly fine, and that the principles of better regulation are met either in part or in full. An unintended consequence could, however, be deemed to be a lack of confidence or competence of businesses to carry out fire risk assessments themselves. The vast array and varying quality of fire risk assessment companies is also a concern for the business community.”

Key recommendations include a requirement for third party fire risk assessors to be certificated or registered to ensure competency and a satisfactory and consistent service, initially focusing on assessments or assessors in higher risk sectors.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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