Automatic fire alarms: keeping false alarms to a minimum

The safety of your building and the people in it can be greatly enhanced by getting an automatic fire alarm.

If used properly and maintained, the automatic fire alarm with its fast response time can assist in the Fire Brigade being called in the early stages of a fire. This will also reduce the risk to life and help limit the damage to your property, in the event of a fire.

Unfortunately, the same features that provide this fast response can also produce false alarms, costing the Fire Service and your building valuable time and resources.

General rules

Many unwanted false alarms are the result of ignorance on the part of employees or contractors who may not be aware that an automatic fire system is in operation.

A few simple rules coupled with normal good housekeeping can help to keep these unwanted nuisance signals to a minimum.

Rule 1 - Staff and contractors should be told about the automatic detection system. There should be a permanent notice at all entrances to areas equipped with automatic fire detection with this notice:

"This area is protected by automatic fire detectors. Before undertaking any work involving heat, smoke, flame or sparks, please obtain clearance to proceed from the Plant Manager or Security Officer."

Rule 2 - Staff or visiting contractors need to be instructed that no activity, generating heat, smoke, flame or sparks should be undertaken without prior authorisation from the Fire Safety Officer or other member of the managerial staff.

This information should be incorporated into staff contracts and operating manuals. Contracts for subcontractors should include a clause requiring them to acknowledge in writing, their responsibility for ensuring that their on-site staff follow the rules.

Rule 3 - No renovation work involving the generation of dust or paint spray is to be carried out in any area protected by automatic smoke detectors, unless proper precautions have been taken to protect the automatic fire detectors against the entry of dust.

  • Beware: the operation of detectors covered with plastic or paper covers will be impaired, if not disabled, by this action. Alternative manual surveillance must be instituted.
  • A named, senior member of the occupiers staff should be made responsible for ensuring that the covers are removed and the system reinstated, as soon as all residual dust has been removed.
  • An operational test of the system by a qualified person is recommended, following any redecorating or building work in a protected area.

If you follow these guidelines, the Fire Service will have more time to allocate to essential duties, it may also help save you from the permanent loss of business – so frequently associated with a major fire.

Further advice can be obtained from the London Fire Brigade Eastern Command Fire Safety Team. Tel: 0207 587 2945 http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/

Contact details

Email: peter.leigh@towerhamlets.gov.uk
Tel: 0207 364 4171 (office hours only)
Fax: 0207 364 4191
Out of Office Hours: Tower Hamlets Council call centre 0207 364 7070.