During 2011/12 County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) received 996 calls to premises as a result of automatic fire detection systems; these accounted for 13.6% of the total emergency calls received. However, only one of these calls was an actual fire, the remainder being unwanted fire signals (UWFS) or false alarms.
As part of the national initiative to reduce these UWFS, we have revised our response to certain premises between certain times of the day. We have done this because attending UWFS is wasteful on our resources and, more importantly, they can breed complacency amongst occupants of premises that suffer from high rates of false alarms. An UWFS also creates unnecessary risk to fire crews and members of the public when appliances are responding under emergency conditions.
The changes in procedure mean that between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, we will not be attending actuations of automatic fire detection systems to low risk properties, if they are not supported by a phone call to confirm a fire service attendance is required. During this time period, most low risk commercial properties (e.g. offices, shops, schools, sports centres, industrial units etc.) are provided with staff that are able to assess if a fire has broken out, or if the alarm activation is due to other reasons.
The responsibility for ascertaining if a fire exists upon actuation of an automatic fire alarm lies with the person who has responsibility for the premises under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO). Therefore, this may mean you need to review your own management policies and procedures to ensure that any actuation of the fire alarm is investigated and fire situation confirmed prior to the fire and rescue service being called. A safe system of work should be implemented at all times by the responsible person and this should be reflected within the premises’ fire safety risk assessment. It is recommended that you inform your relevant insurance companies.
Our new approach will not increase risk to your premises: less than 1% of calls received by an automatic fire alarm system, between the hours of 09:00 – 17:00 Monday to Friday, were actually a fire, and the fire and rescue service will always respond to a call confirming there is a fire. We will also continue to respond to ‘high risk’, ‘sleeping risk’, ‘heritage risk’ or ‘special risks’ properties as we have previously done.
Implementation of this change will ensure that fire and rescue service resources are available for carrying out community safety activities such as home fire safety visits, fire safety inspections of commercial properties, operational training and attending fires, road traffic collisions and other emergency calls.
As part of the consultation process the Fire Authority would appreciate feedback from commercial organisations within the Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service area. Further details regarding this procedure and the FSO legislative requirements can be found here.
Should you require any further assistance or clarification on this matter or require any fire safety advice, please contact the Business Fire Safety Section on 0345 223 4221.