In 2014-15 local authority fire and rescue services attended around 216,000 fire false alarms. This figure represents 44 per cent of all reported incidents, which means that local authorities attended more false alarms than actual fires throughout the year.
The costs of false alarms
A false alarm is defined as ‘a fire signal resulting from a cause other than fire.’ This is defined by Gov.uk as malicious false alarms, good intent false alarms and false alarms due to apparatus, the latter will be the focus of this article.
The cost of false alarms in the UK is said to be approximately £1 billion a year. Estimates from medium-sized businesses range from £1,000 to £125,000 in just one year.
But how does that translate to your business or premises? Every false alarm will cause disruption. This could be your ability to serve your customers or patients effectively, the loss of productivity among staff, increased insurance premiums and potential charges from your local fire and rescue service. The most obvious risk associated with false alarms, though, is the potential risk to life.
The FIA have warned, “The costs of production loss coupled with fines will quickly dwarf the costs of managing and maintaining a fire detection system.”
Fire alarm systems for buildings
BS 5839-1:2013 is the code of practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of systems in non-domestic premises. This code suggests that in clean, well-managed environments, a rate of one false alarm per 100 detectors should be achievable, whereas, for more industrial applications, a rate of one per 75 detectors is more realistic.
Reducing false alarms
In 2014-15 false alarms caused by equipment and apparatus issues made up two thirds of all false alarms. This could be the result of poor installation or perhaps the wrong equipment has been provided for the environment. Any additional issues created at the design and installation phase are likely to create persistent false alarms.
It might sound simple, but it’s vital that the Responsible Person can certify the safety of a building. One of these responsibilities is to ensure that the correct fire alarm has been installed. The environment of your building can in many ways dictate the most appropriate technology, and it’s vital that this forms part of your assessment when selecting fire alarm technology for your premises. This environmental impact can be seen in a catering environment if a heat-detection solution was installed, as this would create unnecessary alarms: due to the fact the kitchen is usually hotter than other areas.
As with all electrical systems, the fire-detection, and fire-alarm system within your property will only be effective if it is regularly checked and maintained. The fire alarm system is likely to be the single most important system in any commercial building. Maintenance will help to safeguard you against any false alarm costs, but most importantly will reduce any potential catastrophes that can be caused by ineffective, broken or out-of-date alarms. As the building owner is liable for the protection of occupants, inspections for compliance and safety are imperative.
Are you unsure about the type of system you have in place? Click here to find out the right fire detection and alarm system for your premises.