Every year Humberside Fire and Rescue Service sends its fire engines to premises after receiving an automatic signal directly from a fire alarm within a premises.
Automatic Fire Alarms (AFAs) provide an effective means of giving early warning of a potential fire within a premises and are especially effective and useful when the premises is unoccupied.
However, these systems are not foolproof and the vast majority (up to 98%) of actuations from these systems require no action by the fire service.
Automatic fire detection can be actuated by many common airborne materials, such as dust, insects, steam, aerosol products and also by faults with the system.
When an actuation of a fire alarm is automatically sent to the fire service and they mobilise their resources to the premises when they aren’t needed, this is deemed to be an Unwanted Fire Signal (UwFS).
With the proliferation of these automatic fire alarm systems, the number of Unwanted Fire Signals received has risen to such a level that the Service can no longer justify mobilising the same resources it would compared to a confirmed fire.
Humberside Fire and Rescue Service is therefore reviewing attendance levels to calls from AFAs and is actively working with the premises who generate these calls to reduce the number of false alarm activations and their subsequent transmission to the fire service, which makes them UwFSs.
Humberside Fire and Rescue Service has adopted elements of the National Fire Chiefs Council policy and guidance for dealing with Unwanted Fire Signals.
Unwanted Fire Signals Position Statement
To reduce the burden caused by Unwanted Fire Signals HFRS use a combination of engagement, non-attendance and charging approach. We will, within defined parameters:
- Not attend automated alarm signals unless confirmed as a genuine fire and
- Where we deem it appropriate charge the Responsible Person for persistent false alarms originating from their fire warning equipment
Upon receipt of an Automated Fire Alarm (AFA) call, HFRS Service Control will use a call challenge procedure as detailed in this position statement. The purpose of the call challenge process is to obtain accurate information from the caller, enabling the fire control operator to take the most appropriate action.
From 1 December 2022 we will not attend non-sleeping premises, unless the caller at the premises is able to confirm that there is a fire.
If the caller is based at the premises concerned they will be asked to confirm if there is a fire. If fire is confirmed a full pre-determined attendance will be mobilised.
If the caller cannot confirm the cause of the alarm they will be asked to investigate and will be advised that no response will be made unless they are able to confirm there is a fire. Callers will be informed that should they, during their investigation, discover signs of a fire they should immediately call 999 and an emergency response will be sent.
On occasions where calls are received from members of the public who are not connected with the premises concerned, callers will not be challenged to investigate, and an attendance will be sent.
If an appliance is mobile to an AFA call and further information confirms it’s a false alarm the attendance will be cancelled.
Sleeping risk premises are excluded from this non-attendance approach. Domestic properties are excluded from this non-attendance approach.
Industrial sites which are licensed under the COMAH Regulations 2015 are excluded from this non-attendance approach due to their significant off-site risk.
This position statement gives scope for further exemptions for premises that do not fit the automatic exemptions criteria:
- Your Emergency Plan cannot rely on HFRS responding to investigate fire alarm actuations in order to ensure the safety of occupants however, you may apply for an exceptional exemption. The aim of an exceptional exemption is to allow Responsible Persons a reasonable window of opportunity to address the failings in their fire risk assessment to enable the Emergency Plan to mitigate the risk. If an emergency can be planned for it is not an emergency
Each case is considered on its own merits and must meet the following conditions:
- The onus is on the Responsible Person to submit their case to HFRS
- The case must be based upon high risk to persons resulting from this position statement approach
- Buildings considered to be of exceptional national or community value
- Exemptions will not be granted where HFRS believe that the Responsible Person can take reasonable action to mitigate the risk
- Exemptions will only be a temporary measure, they will be reviewed within 12 months and HFRS expect the Responsible Person to work towards achieving a permanent satisfactory solution, e.g. upgrading alarm systems to a ‘double knock’ system, employing staff to manage the risk etc.
Alarm Receiving Centre’s (ARCs)
In line with the STANDARD AGREEMENT FOR: ALARM RECEIVING CENTRES AND TELECARE SERVICE PROVIDERS it will be the role of ARC to make contact with the premises and confirm if a fire exists prior to informing HFRS control.