Fire Alarm Policy: Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is an AFA?

An AFA (Automatic Fire Alarm) is a fire alarm system. They are common place in many different types of premises.

2. What is the purpose of an AFA?

An AFA is designed to provide early warning to occupants of a potential fire situation. Frequent false alarms can undermine the effectiveness of a fire alarm system.

3. What is an Unwanted Fire Signal (UwFS)?

An unwanted fire signal is a false alarm generated from a fire alarm activation and then passed on to the Fire & Rescue Service to respond.

4. Why are UwFS a problem to the Fire & Rescue Service?

Last year, Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service (GFRS) attended more than 1700 calls generated by AFA systems. 98% of these were false alarms.

Unwanted Fire Signals divert vital emergency resources away from real emergencies and create an increased risk to the public, road users and firefighters through vehicles responding on blue lights

5. Will my premises be affected by these changes?

Sleeping risk premises, some heritage and local infrastructure premises will receive an emergency response if the alarm activates. For example: -

6. If it is a false alarm, you won’t know until you get there?

From the data analysis and subsequent information, we are able to identify that the likelihood of there actually being a fire that requires some form of intervention is very low. In fact, for the majority of AFA calls, no equipment or action is required by fire crews. In the event of a fire or any physical signs of a fire, dial 999 for an immediate emergency response.

7. Do other Fire & Rescue Services do the same?

Several other Fire & Rescue Services have taken this approach and many more across the country are reviewing their policy/procedures.

8. Has there been a consultation process for this?

A change in our attendance to incidents does not normally constitute a consultation process. However, key stakeholders have been consulted on the development of these changes.

9. Is the risk to firefighters and the public increased by not attending every fire alarm?

There will be a significant reduction in risk to both members of the public and operational firefighters through the reduced frequency of fire engines responding on blue lights.

10. What effect will the new policy have on domestic alarms monitored by Telecare organisations?

The policy change only relates to premises where the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies. It will not affect the way we respond to alarms activating at premises where people sleep or where occupants are vulnerable.

11. How can you reduce UwFS by not incorporating all types of premises?

Reducing the number of UwFS within certain types of premises will allow our Fire Safety Enforcement Team to focus on safety management of higher risk premises to support measures to reduce false alarms.

12. What happens when you are unsure what type of premises has had a fire alarm activation?

Our Fire Control Room operators are trained and have information screens to enable them to establish the type of premises the call relates to. If there is any doubt as to the premises type, a fire engine will be mobilised as a precaution.

13. Will the Fire & Rescue Service make a monetary charge for attending false alarms?

We do not have a charging policy for false alarms, but there is the option to introduce this at any time in the future. We will consider suspending our attendance to premises that have a high incidence of false alarms.

14. If the fire alarm is activating due to a fire, will it become a larger fire if we do not attend?

If the premises is occupied and someone investigates the alarm activation, a 999 call will immediately trigger an emergency response. When premises are unoccupied, perhaps at night, the person responsible for the premises should have arrangements in place to investigate why the fire alarm has activated and call 999 if a fire is discovered.

15. How do I protect my property when it is unoccupied at night?

If the fire alarm is connected to an Alarm Receiving Centre, ensure that keyholder and/or on-site security contact information is accurate. Consider linking the alarm system to CCTV. We will respond immediately if you have a coincidence alarm activating, i.e. an alarm which confirms a fire when more than one detector or 'break glass' point activates.

16. Will you respond if the premises have a sprinkler system?

If the caller reports that the sprinkler system has activated, we will attend the premises to investigate.

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