False Fire Alarms

Automatic fire alarms help to keep premises and their occupant's safe by providing an early warning of a possible fire and enabling people inside the building to evacuate.

However, did you know that there were over 13,500 signals from automatic fire alarms in Greater Manchester in 2006 and less than 1% were actual fires and only 60 required firefighters to use equipment? As a result, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has made an important change to their policy which every business should be aware of.

Fire alarm and detection systems react as a result of either an increase in heat or the presence of smoke. Unfortunately, they also react to things such as steam, cigarette smoke, aerosol sprays, light smoke from cooking and many other things. When a fire alarm goes off, as a result of anything other than a real fire, this is considered to be an Unwanted Fire Signal.

What are the consequences of Unwanted Fire Signals?

  • It ties up our fire engines when they could be going to real emergencies or our firefighters could be carrying out vital training;
  • It can cause disruption to businesses effecting efficiency, profitability and services;
  • Frequent false alarms in a building cause staff to become complacent and less willing to act quickly when the alarm activates.

UnWanted Fire Signals Strategy 2010 >>

Our new approach

When the fire alarm system in a building operates, a call is normally made to the Fire and Rescue Service, either directly or by staff in your building or indirectly via an Alarm Receiving Centre. From December 2007, if the call is made directly by staff in your building, our Control operators will try to determine whether or not there is actually a fire, or whether the call is a false alarm. If there are no immediately apparent signs of fire they will ask the caller to hang up and to check the building for signs of a fire.

If you spot signs of fire, make a back up 999 call!
Signs of fire includes things like, obvious flames, smell of smoke, lights flickering or increased heat. If you spot a sign of fire call 999. We are not asking you to put yourself in danger, we are just asking that you look for signs of a fire, not a fire itself!

The next steps for your business

Please ensure…

  • The fire risk assessment for your premises is up to date and reflects the conditions in your premises.
  • Your fire alarm and detection system has been properly designed, installed, and commissioned and that it is properly managed and maintained.
  • You have people designated to take responsibility for the management and maintenance of your fire alarm system.
  • In the event of your fire alarm operating, the premises is evacuated, where this forms part of the fire strategy for your premises.
  • Your fire alarm procedures include the designation of specific staff to check whether or not there are any signs of a fire, when the fire alarm sounds.
  • If any signs of fire are found, ensure that there is a designated member of staff to call the Fire and Rescue Service using the 999/112 system.
  • Any false alarms are properly recorded in the fire alarm log book, including remedial actions taken to prevent a recurrence.

Useful downloads

From the common causes of unwanted false fire alarms to learning what to do when your fire alarm is activated, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has produced a leaflet on how to Investigate your fire alarm (PDF 1,869 KB).


Last update: 23/03/2016 08:19:56
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