The Importance of Managing False Alarms – Fire Services & BS 5839 Part 1

As reported by the BBC, the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) at Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue – Les Britzman – is asking business owners to take more care and responsibility in regards to false alarms. Provided that there are no hazardous materials in the premises and there is no immediate risk to life or the community, the CFO says they should “have systems in place to go and check those buildings themselves” before calling 999. This is inline with information and advice from the London Fire Brigade who attended around 38,000 false alarms in 2017 alone, diverting resources from real emergencies and putting people at risk due to avoidable blue light journeys.

BS 5839 Part 1, the Code of Practice for design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire alarm systems in non-domestic premises, has a focus on managing false alarms, which means doing so is necessary to maintain compliance. The Responsible Person must ensure that all false alarms on a system are logged and investigated for a root cause, and that mitigating work is undertaken as necessary. This could be fitting simple flip covers to manual call points, a recommendation in the Standard, to prevent accidental activation.

Another fundamental part of managing false alarms in existing fire alarm systems is to ensure they are tested, inspected, and serviced at regular intervals. This will reduce the risks of false alarms caused by faulty or improperly installed equipment, as well as identifying detectors which have become unsuitable due to a change in the purpose of a room after the system was installed. For example, swapping optical beam detectors to point heat detectors in a building that was repurposed from warehousing into a factory with machinery that creates a lot of dust.

Fire Alarm System Testing & Maintenance
Functional testing of point smoke detectors with a Solo aerosol dispenser and access pole.

For new fire alarm systems, during the design stage the full details of the Fire Risk Assessment, the building, and its intended / current use should be made available so that the most suitable types of detector can be selected and positioned in the correct way. Suitable detectors in the correct locations are one of the easiest methods for managing false alarms as, for example, installing an optical smoke detector near kitchens or bathrooms could result in false alarms due to steam from cooking or baths and showers. While identifying design shortcomings is not generally the responsibility of an installer, the Standard does state that any issues noticed during installation – particularly those arising from features of the building that might not have been known to the designer – should be brought to the attention of the designer or Responsible Person. An example of this could be certain machinery in a room which, during normal operation, creates excessive heat that would activate a Class A1 heat detector (54 – 65°C activation) and therefore making the use of a Class B detector (69 – 85°C) more appropriate.

Managing false alarms properly ensures that time is not wasted by needless evacuations of the premises, which may also cause downtime of machinery and potentially a loss of earnings. There is also a chance that occupants may get used to hearing false alarms and fail to react properly in the event of a real emergency. Should a real fire incident occur, documentation showing full compliance will be required during the investigation and it is highly likely that insurers will also require this when processing a claim.

Safelincs provide nationwide fire alarm system servicing and maintenance contracts at competitive pricing. View our Servicing and Maintenance page, call our Servicing team on 0800 612 4827, or see our summary of BS 5839-1: 2017 for more information.

Daniel Bennett

Daniel Bennett

Product Administrator

Daniel is one of our product administrators. He has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to emergency lighting, fire alarms and smart products.

Sigma Smart+Shield – Deterring the Misuse of Emergency Exits

Emergency exits need to be accessible and easy top open, however, casual use of these exits can cause obvious problems, for example in shops and schools. The Smart+Shield Emergency Exit Alarm is designed to solve this problem.

Sigma Smart+Shield Emergency Exit AlarmThe exit alarm is fitted on or next to the exit door and sounds a very loud alarm if the door is opened un-authorised. The unit can be powered by either a 9V battery or from the mains. You can set the volume to either 75dB or 95dB and there’s also a delayed alarm setting, which will only sound if the door is left open – which is helpful for doors that need to be used regularly by authorised personnel. Following a door alarm activation the alarm can self-reset after either 30 or 180 seconds, or you can choose to activate it with the integrated keyswitch.  All Smart+Shields are also supplied with a fluorescent sticker that can be placed across the alarm, making it clear that the door is not for casual use.

ECSG950 Smart+Shield for panic bars in situThe base model of the Smart+Shield will work with any door when installed next to a magnetic contact (supplied with the alarm) on the door or the door frame. If you have installed panic bars you can mount the appropriate Smart+Shield behind the bar, increasing its impact as a visual deterrent.

The touch and panic bar models also have an extra feature: pre-alarm. They can sense slight pressure on the bar, starting a temporary alarm. If the bar is released then the alarm will silence itself, but will convert to a full alarm if the door is opened.

To place an order or find out more about the Smart+Shield visit our product listing. Alternatively you can contact our friendly sales and support staff by calling 0800 612 6537 or sending an email to support@safelincs.co.uk.

Daniel Bennett

Daniel Bennett

Product Administrator

Daniel is one of our product administrators. He has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to emergency lighting, fire alarms and smart products.