Last edited 26 Feb 2021

Main author

BRE Group Researcher Website

Live investigations of false fire alarms

Live investigations of false fire alarms.jpg

Live investigations of false fire alarms was written by Raman Chagger and published by BRE in December 2015. Recommendations made as a result of this project can help to significantly reduce the occurrence of false fire alarms.

Fire detection and fire alarm systems (FDFAS) are used to provide early warning of fire in order to alert the local Fire and Rescue Service (FRS). FRS attendance at fires saves lives, prevents injury and reduces associated property damage costs.

However, false alarms attribute to estimated losses of around £1 billion a year, resulting in disruption and loss of productivity for businesses. False alarms have the potential to divert fire and rescue services away from real fires, and also reduce the confidence of the general public in fire alarms. Despite this there is no single organisation responsible for investigating false alarms or providing guidance on reducing them.

This research aimed to identify the fundamental causes of false fire alarms, utilising a fire alarm industry expert to investigate false alarms as they occurred in the field in the greater Glasgow area. A comprehensive online questionnaire containing 124 questions was developed to enable the fire alarm investigator to record all details of the false alarms attended. This form of live investigation of false alarms had not previously been attempted. The fire alarm investigator assisted Scottish Fire and Rescue Service crews as they attended live callouts and, following a comprehensive investigation, completed online reports for each false alarm.

Data from his accounts and from 65 false alarm reports, gathered from November 2014 to April 2015, were analysed and 35 recommendations were made. These can significantly reduce false alarm occurrences and contribute to the greater integrity and reliability of fire detection systems.

The recommendations were made across nine different stakeholder groups, ensuring that fire and rescue services, fire risk assessors, business owners, fire alarm contractors, trade associations and others can all play their part in collectively reducing false alarms in the UK.

The contents of the briefing paper are:

  • Summary.
  • Abbreviations and glossary of terms.
  • Introduction.
  • Methodology.
  • Summary of data gathered.
  • Findings and recommendations.
  • Future work.
  • Conclusions.
  • References.

The free briefing paper can be downloaded at:

--BRE Group

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