London Fire Brigade to change response to automatic fire alarms in non-residential buildings during daytime

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Policy change to reduce false fire alarm responses

As reported by the London Fire Brigade, the Brigade will implement a new policy starting in October 2024.

The Brigade will cease attending automatic fire alarms in most non-residential buildings, such as office blocks and industrial estates, during daytime hours unless a call is also received from a person reporting a fire.

Between April 2023 and March 2024, the Brigade responded to approximately 52,000 false alarms generated by automatic fire alarms.

The policy aligns with practices of almost all other UK fire and rescue services, aiming to utilise firefighters’ time more effectively to enhance community safety.

The Brigade will continue to respond to all automatic fire alarms in residential buildings, schools, nurseries, hospitals, care homes, heritage sites, and other exempt premises.

Additionally, the policy will apply only between 7am and 8.30pm, with responses to all alarms resuming outside these hours.

Consultation and stakeholder engagement

The changes follow a comprehensive consultation last year involving the public, businesses, partners, firefighters, and other Brigade staff.

The consultation’s feedback led to adjustments, including an expanded list of exempt premises.

Deputy Commissioner Charlie Pugsley stated: “Following a consultation with key stakeholders, it is clear that support for the new policy recognises the benefits these changes will have on our service for Londoners.”

Ahead of the policy rollout, the Brigade will work closely with stakeholders, businesses, community groups, and Londoners to ensure they understand the changes, prepare accordingly, and maintain the safety of their buildings and occupants.

Pugsley added: “We are here to keep London’s communities safe, and we want to do this as effectively as possible.”

Impact on firefighter training and community safety

Less than 1% of automatic fire alarms signal genuine fires, with the remaining 99% being false alarms, which burden the Brigade’s resources.

The time spent attending these false alarms will instead be used to improve operational training for firefighters and enhance fire prevention and safety in local communities.

The National Fire Chiefs Council and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services support efforts to reduce false alarm attendances.

The Brigade emphasises the importance of managing and maintaining automatic alarm systems to minimise false alarms.

Common causes include poor alarm design or maintenance, dust inside detectors, or steam.

Businesses experiencing recurring false alarms are urged to investigate each occurrence and contact their alarm system company to resolve issues.

Reasons for false alarms

False alarms occur due to various reasons such as poor alarm design or maintenance, dust in detectors, or steam.

Ensuring automatic alarm systems are correctly managed and maintained is crucial to minimise false alarms.

Additionally, staff in businesses should be suitably trained to understand their responsibilities under fire safety law.

Recurring false alarms can often be resolved quickly and easily.

Deputy Commissioner Charlie Pugsley explained: “As outlined in our Community Risk Management Plan, reducing our attendance at false alarms will give firefighters more time to focus on preventative activity, such as visiting our most vulnerable residents and communities, fire safety checks, as well as operational training.”

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