Changes to the way we will be responding to automatic fire alarms commencing 1st June 2013…

One of the greatest drains on our resources continues to be calls generated by the actuation of AFAs when there is no fire. Well designed, effectively maintained and properly used AFAs cause very few problems to either occupiers or us. Unfortunately systems that do not meet these criteria are responsible for numerous unwanted calls due to system faults or failures in the occupier’s management of the system; with 95 per cent of all calls to automatic fire alarms turning out to be false alarms. This wastes our time, your time and taxpayers’ money. It can also have a detrimental effect on your productivity.

We are making every effort to reduce the number of false alarms we attend and it is only right that employers accept their responsibility for having effective measures in place to maintain and manage fire alarm equipment. To reduce the number of unwanted fire calls from Automatic Fire Detection Systems we have decided to take action to ensure our operational resources are used effectively and to ensure that these can be available to respond to real emergencies.

Under new procedures being introduced on the 1st June 2013, we will no longer be responding to certain calls originating from automatic fire alarms in offices, shops, factories and other lower life risk premises unless there is a confirmed emergency (fire, smell of burning or smoke). However, the risk to life in premises such as schools and where people sleep, such as hospitals and residential homes, is considerably higher as children or the elderly and infirm are often involved and reaction may be slower. For this reason, we will still mobilise to alarm calls at these types of premises.

Main Changes – From 1st June 2013.

1. Any Industrial, Commercial, Office, Shop, Licensed or Public Premises or Place of Worship will only receive an emergency response to activation of their Automatic fire alarms between 0700 hrs and 1900hrs – Monday to Friday when supported by a 999 call confirming a fire or smell of burning at the premises. All times outside of these periods will receive an emergency response.

2. Any premises that generate persistent false fire alarm signals may be required to provide a confirmed report of fire at the premises via 999 before the fire service will respond.

Further advice and guidance is available on our website http://www.norfolkfireservice.gov.uk/nfrs/business-fire-safety or; please contact us on 01603 810351 and ask for a fire safety advisor where free advice will be available to help you comply with the Fire Safety Order and assist you to reduce any unwanted fire alarm actuations.

What will this mean to you and what you need to do right now If you have a FIRE

If anyone discovers fire or smoke, smells burning, or suspects there is a fire for some other reason (but not just the fire alarm actuating) they are to be advised to actuate the fire alarm and dial 999 (or to follow your emergency plan if you have different internal arrangements for calling the Fire and Rescue Service). We will make an immediate full emergency response, whilst you are evacuating the premises. There should be someone available to meet the Fire Service upon arrival to inform the crew about the nature and location of the fire.

Fire Safety Arrangements – Fire Risk Assessments and Emergency Plans

Each individual building will be unique, and dependent upon the fire risk assessment will result in different fire safety solutions being adopted. However, in each case there will also be an emergency plan designed to ensure the effective management of incidents ensuring the safety of all persons within the premises and of course the building itself. Alternatively, the issues may remain static and require only infrequent review. However, this is your process to manage, and it is our role to carry out audits to ensure compliance with current legislation, and to ensure that your approach to fire safety accords with best practice.

Follow up inspections

Where the Fire and Rescue Service attends your premises as a result of a fire or false alarm, each such event may be followed up by an audit of the fire risk assessment including a review of the incident to ensure the fire safety arrangements and emergency plan were effective. Where these are found not to be suitable, advice will be given to ensure appropriate remedial actions are taken. Failure to take such actions may lead to formal enforcement action.

Unwanted Fire Calls

You are reminded that this policy is intended to ensure occupiers/owners/employers take responsibility for fire safety management of their premises, take simple steps to avoid the generation of unwanted fire calls, and to effectively manage fire alarm events when they do occur.

A significant number of unwanted fire calls result from:

Fire Alarm Engineers working on the system

Unannounced routine tests

Contractors working close to detectors

Contractors undertaking hot work without permits or without isolating detectors

Cooking fumes and toasters

Steam from showers

Accidental breakage of call points

I am sure you will agree that none of these give rise to immediate life threatening situations, and in many instances someone will already know they have caused the alarm. These matters are readily detectable by a cursory check without putting staff at risk and without the need for extensive technical knowledge. What we are expecting is for you to carry out such a check if the Automatic Fire Alarm System has operated, then to call us by dialling 999 and tell the Fire Control Operator as much about the situation as possible. You should still instigate your emergency plan whilst the check is being carried out.