SFRS overhauls response strategy after 30,000 unwanted fire alarms

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Over 30,000 unwanted fire alarm signals trigger firefighter response in 2022

More than 30,000 instances of unwanted fire alarm signals were addressed by firefighters throughout Scotland in the previous year, averaging roughly 80 incidents per day. These statistics have come to light as the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) prepares to modify its response strategy to such signals in business premises and workplaces.

Changes to emergency response protocol due in July

Starting from the 1st of July 2023, in the event of an alarm, dutyholders – those entrusted with fire safety responsibility, are expected to examine the cause of the alarm and only dial 999 after a fire is confirmed. This strategy has already been implemented by several other UK fire and rescue services, who dispatch fire appliances only when a fire is confirmed.

Altered procedures to exclude certain premises

The impending change will not affect premises providing sleeping accommodation, such as hospitals, care homes, hotels, student accommodation, and domestic residences. These will maintain their current level of emergency response. Workplaces are being urged to provide staff with sufficient training regarding the new procedures and establish appropriate fire safety measures.

Calls for dutyholder readiness and preparation

David Farries, the Assistant Chief Officer (ACO) and SFRS Director of Service Delivery, urged dutyholders to prepare for the upcoming changes. He emphasised the significance of providing staff with adequate training and ensuring suitable fire safety provisions are present within business premises. Furthermore, he recommended dutyholders familiarise themselves with the information provided on the SFRS website.

The majority of signals from automatic fire alarm systems are not due to actual fires. Instead, they are false alarms frequently triggered by cooking fumes, dust or poor maintenance. The new procedure aims to free up operational crews for actual emergencies, reduce unnecessary road risk and environmental impact caused by false alarms.

Potential time saving and benefits to businesses

By altering the response to such incidents, Farries indicated that around 64,000 hours could be saved annually. This time could be utilised for other activities like training and fire safety prevention work. Businesses could also benefit from fewer disruptions. Each unwanted fire alarm signal interrupts business activities for approximately 27 minutes on average.

Educational premises, call centres, offices, pubs, restaurants, shops, and single retail units were among the most frequent sources of unwanted alarms. The changes on 1st July 2023 result from a public consultation in 2021. The SFRS website provides guidance to assist dutyholders in preparing for the changes.

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