Reducing automatic fire alarm call outs

Below are some ways that you can help reduce false alarms, at the same time making your workplace or property an even safer place for your customers, staff and/or residents.

Correct Design

  • Has your fire alarm system, been installed in the right place?
  • Has it got a commissioning certificate?
  • Good maintenance and management of the system should minimise false alarms.

Cooking

  • This should only be done in designated areas.
  • Appropriate detectors in kitchen (normally heat detectors)
  • Adequate extraction/ventilation.
  • Dectors adjacent tot the kitchen should NOT be ionisation (ionisation detectors are more likely to pick up cooking fumes) – use optical/multi sensor.
  • Doors should not be not wedged open with blocks etc – there are systems available to overcome this issue which ‘wedge’ the door but close when the fire alarm sounds.
  • A smoke alarm in a self-contained unit does not always need to be connected to the main premises fire alarm system.
  • Toasters - only used in designated areas ensure they have a standard plug or are wired into mains. Conveyor belt types of toaster are less likely to burn.

Contractors

  • Contractors should have an appropriate permit to work.
  • Isolation of area or take fire alarm system ‘off line’Schedule of work to contain details of how contractor will prevent false alarms.
  • Cover detectors (uncover when completed for day).
  • Hot work – such as welding, plumbing, soldering etc. Should be risk assessed to include false alarms.
  • Have Management controls in place to review the performance of contractors.
  • Consider penalty clauses for outside contractors – generating a false alarm.


Steam

  • Vents and extraction to be suitable.
  • Is the site of the detector near a steam outlet? Can this be moved?
  • Type of detectors – use optical /multi sensor/ heat.

Smoking

  • Be aware of smoking outside of designated areas and enforce non-smoking policies as strictly as possible.
  • Plan the location of your smoking areas well. These should not be located near loading bay entranced door for instance.


Manual Call Point (break glass box)

  • Is it in a location where it is accidentally or maliciously set off. Can it be moved?
  • Use of covers or flaps to protect the break glass point to be considered.
  • Manual call points with covers or flaps can be fitted with an audible warning system to deter malicious/accidental operation.


In some properties consideration could be given to the use of the ‘double knock’ system – this is a robust system where two or more smoke detector heads have to go off, before the alarm sounds.  This will assist in properties where environmental effects such as steam or condensation easily set off alarms, without an increase in risk.

When considering these points, a thorough risk assessment must be carried out before making any changes to your alarm system or management procedures.

If you have any questions you wish to discuss with a Fire Officer do not hesitate to contact us. Further guidance can be obtained by e-mailing jonathan.wilby@fire.norfolk.gov.uk, phoning 0300 123 1669 or Contact us.