Causes of false fire alarms in buildings

False Alarms Featured | BRE Group

Analysis of false alarm incidents and trends has shed light on why they occur and the further investigations needed.

The purpose of this project was to investigate why false fire alarms occur in buildings and to identify approaches that could be developed and used to reduce their occurrence. Kings College London (KCL) and Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority (BMKFA) both contributed basic data for analysis by BRE.

KCL provided data from 699 false alarm incidents, and after this had been thoroughly reviewed six recommendations were proposed to address false alarms. The replacement of existing detectors with intelligent multi-sensor detectors (that detect more than one fire phenomena) was found to be the solution that could have potentially reduced false alarms by the greatest amount (69%).

Discussions were held with the BMKFA Unwanted Fire Signals Officer, and BMKFA’s false alarm trends over a nine-year period were analysed. This showed that using an experienced technical individual dedicated to investigating false alarms and engaging directly with regular offenders, was an effective way for Fire and Rescue Services to reduce false alarms. Educating building owners, responsible persons and the general public can contribute significantly to reducing false alarms, because simple measures can often cause notable reductions. BMKFA data also confirmed that the increased use of multi-sensor detectors can avert false alarms from common causes, such as cooking fumes, steam etc.

In order to further understand the real causes of false alarms, the attendance – with fire and rescue services – of a technically competent false alarm investigator at premises with false alarms in progress, was proposed. Such an approach would ensure rapid investigation of the false alarm, increasing the likelihood of accurate diagnosis of the cause. This recommendation directly led to the follow-on research project, Live investigations of false alarms, which has now been completed.

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