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False Alarms – Why Are There So Many And How Can You Prevent Them?

Around 38% of all fire alarm activations that are responded to are false alarms, and over 90% of all fire alarm activations in total are false, wasting important time for emergency services and wasting resources. False alarms can also be costly to building owners if there are repeated false activations, which can lead to significant fines. 

As you can see, it’s important to minimise the chances of a false fire alarm activation within your building. Keep reading to see why there are so many and what you can do to lower the chances of them occurring.

Why And How Do False Fire Alarms Occur?

Of all false fire alarm activations, 90% are a result of the system being faulty, 2% are deemed to be malicious, and 6% are thought to come from ‘good intent’. 

This means that the vast majority of activations are caused by system failures such as:

  • Malfunctioning detectors and sensors
  • Improper installation that results in sensors and detectors being placed in the wrong locations or mis-calibrated
  • Poor maintenance that leads to malfunctions and breakages in the system

Other factors that can lead to false fire alarms include smoke from cooking, people smoking in the wrong areas, steam, and dust. 

Tips on Avoiding False Fire Alarm Activations

It All Starts With A Proper Installation

Improper installations are a significant factor in false fire alarm activations, as they can leave the system with faults, improper equipment and equipment placement.

If you experience frequent issues with your fire alarm system or have had multiple false alarm activations before, it’s likely that your system might not have been installed as well as it needed to be for your building.

By having a system installed properly, you can rest assured that the right detectors and sensors will be used throughout your premises, that they will be placed in the correct locations, and calibrated properly. This alone will greatly reduce the chance of your system going off when it’s not supposed to.

Regular Maintenance

Ongoing maintenance is essential in keeping your fire alarm system functioning properly. As with most technical systems, there are many elements that can develop faults or get damaged over time. 

These faults can easily lead to alarms triggering even when they haven’t detected smoke or heat. Other problems including dust build-ups can also make it difficult for alarm systems to work and could trigger them more frequently than they are meant to.

By ensuring that your systems undergo regular maintenance and servicing, you’ll help to proactively prevent any issues that might arise, and will limit the chances of your system becoming faulty to the point of false triggering.

Manage Potential Risk Factors

There are also a number of environmental risk factors that can accidentally set off fire alarm systems. Remember, repeat false alarms could land you in financial trouble, so it’s important to manage these factors and remove them wherever possible.

Things such as steam from industrial machinery, kitchen smoke and steam, heavy amounts of dust or fine particle waste in the air, and people smoking cigarettes in the wrong areas can all lead to detectors triggering your alarms unnecessarily.

Make sure that you are able to manage these appropriately – for example creating dedicated smoking areas, or adding ventilation systems to deal with steam – so that you minimise the risk of them causing a false alarm.

Educate Your Staff & Customers

Other causes of false fire alarms include both accidental activations as well as malicious activations which can come from building occupants. 

To reduce the risks of this happening, you should:

  • Train your staff on how to use the fire alarm system safely and properly
  • Place signs around your building for customers so that they understand how to use the system and how not to use it
  • Make it clear that there are significant consequences for malicious fire alarm activations

Preventing false fire alarms is important to protect the valuable time of our fire services, and allows your business to avoid potential fines and wasting resources. If you have any questions regarding your fire safety system, feel free to get in touch for friendly, expert advice!