Firstly, the use of the term “False Alarm” is often misused when talking about automatic fire detection and alarm systems. A smoke or heat sensor will activate when smoke or excess heat is present. Vehicle exhaust smoke, bonfire smoke or burnt toast are all example of false or unwanted alarms. The sensor is only doing its job and whilst the activation may not be down to a real fire, the sensor has activated for the right reasons. In this case it’s better to refer to it as an “unwanted alarm”. Unfortunately many of the statistics quoted do not differentiate between false, and unwanted alarms.
People are all too quick to blame false alarms on faulty equipment. However, modern electronic fire detection and alarm systems are no less reliable these days than any other item of electronic equipment. Fire sensors and control panels are produced not only in their millions by global manufacturing businesses to exacting quality requirements. They are also subject to an expensive approvals process prior to being released to market, designed to ensure they meet the appropriate European safety standards.
More often than not unwanted alarms are down to the following factors, none of which is due to faulty hardware:
- Poor system design
- Badly executed installation
- Inadequate maintenance
- Vandalism or inappropriate use
A recent article published by the Yorkshire Post revealed some worrying statistics.
A Yorkshire Post and Evening Post investigation, based on a series of Freedom of Information requests to the region’s four fire services, found there were a total of 23,281 false call outs to automatic fire alarms since the start of last financial year. The highest number - nearly half the total sum - were in West Yorkshire where firefighters responded 11,064 times. Each call out in North and West Yorkshire takes one fire engine and four firefighters out of service, with an estimated cost of between £323 and £355 an hour.
Dave Walton, deputy chief fire officer for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) says, “The fire and rescue resource across Yorkshire is finite - it’s no secret that all services are facing budgetary challenges at the moment.
Fire authorities have been working to tackle the issue, but say the weight of responsibility has to lie with private businesses in ensuring their systems aren’t adding to the problem. “We know from history, from experience, that often it is down to alarms being poorly maintained,” said Mr Walton. “It’s the premises’ owner’s responsibility. “It’s in everybody’s interests that these are managed well.”
Drax Technology can assist business and the “responsible person” within those businesses to ensure that several of the factors responsible for unwanted alarms are quantified and reported to provide a clear indication of what needs to be done to significantly reduce the occurrence of unwanted alarms. Drax Technology has real evidence from a large institution using Drax Technology’s AMX software effectively, that unwanted alarms can be reduced. This is achieved by collecting data on the many fire detection and alarm systems, analysing the data and instigating measures to ensure unwanted alarms don’t re-occur.
Mr Walton also said in his comments to the Yorkshire Post that there was evidence that it cost organisations £2,900 for each call out. Clearly reducing unwanted alarms has some real benefits to both the business or organisation using the F&RS and to the F&RS itself.
Why don’t you do your bit and give us a call to see what Drax Technology and its AMX software can do for you. Collecting real time data from your fire detection and alarm systems using our software will provide you with the opportunity to investigate the cause of unwanted alarms and give you the leverage to do something about it. At the same time the data can help you prove compliance with onerous fire safety legislation.