Live investigations of false fire alarms

Published:  18 December, 2015

BRE briefing paper investigates the causes of unwanted fire alarms and provides 35 recommendations.

The report identifies the 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 in Scotland.

This area contains 11 community fire stations providing services to approximately 600,000 people and an estimated 28,000 commercial premises.

The report highlights that during the 2014/15 fiscal reporting period, fire crews responded to approximately 14,800 incidents of which nearly 40% (6,000) were attributed to unwanted fire alarm signal (UFAS) events.

The research involved an online questionnaire containing 124 questions for the fire alarm investigator, a form of ‘live’ investigation of false alarms that has never previously been attempted.

From the last week of November 2014 to the first week of April 2015, a total of 65 false alarms were comprehensively detailed for the greater Glasgow area. During this time the fire alarm investigator periodically produced detailed qualitative reports which, together with quantitative data from the 65 cases, were used by the research group to support recommendations for reducing false alarms.

The main causes of false alarm reported in this study were, in decreasing order of occurrence: unknown, fault, dust, cooking, weekly testing, accidental activations, steam, aerosol and water ingress.

The data, which has been analysed by BRE, has resulted in 35 recommendations that could significantly reduce false alarm occurrences and contribute to the greater integrity and reliability of systems and management processes.

To download the report and view the recommendations visit:

  • Operation Florian

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