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Reducing False Alarms

Activities near fire detectors, particularly smoke detectors, are the cause of many false alarms.

  • We encourage AFA protected site managers to be more proactive about false alarms.
  • We have set up Call-Filtering procedures with Fire Alarm Monitoring Centres and in our own Sussex Control Centre to make sure appliances are not sent to confirmed false alarms.

The following advice about common causes will help you avoid them on your premises. 

False Alarm
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What can you do?

  • Cooking Fumes - Only cook in the areas that have the correct detection facilities.  Use the right extractor fans and close doors between cooking areas. Think about the location of toasters, they are frequent offenders.
  • Steam - Keeps shower rooms well ventilated and doors closed. Signs will remind people if they need to switch off extractor fans or open windows to stop steam building up. Qualified engineers can advise on the best type of detector to use around steamy areas.
  • Smoking - Keep to clearly identified smoking areas that are protected with appropriate detectors. Smoking under smoke detectors will set them off!
  • Aerosol sprays - Prevent the use or aerosols near fire alarms detractors or consider different products.
  • Hot and/or Dusty Work - Approved staff could fit temporary covers on detectors during the work and remove them afterwards.  Other staff in the area (including contractors) will need to be reminded to raise the alarm if they see a fire. 

    Dust can also prevent detectors from effectively working so it is essential to plan all hot and dusty work carefully.


    Make sure that contractors carrying out work take additional care not to trigger alarms by accident.

The GOV.UK website has the following information

Advice for Residents

Carrying out maintenance? 

If it’s likely to set your alarm off let us know before you start the work let us know the responsible person should call the Sussex Control Centre on 02031 622363

This will help us decide what course of action to take if we receive any emergency calls. 

Do you know why your alarm has been set off?

If you know that something has been done that has set off your alarm, like an accidental knock by builder, or steam from a shower, call us on 999 and let us know. 

Silencing an alarm

If you are unsure why an alarm has been set of DO NOT silence it call 999.


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Legal Responsibilities & Responsible Person

If you are;

  • an employer, the owner, the landlord, an occupier or anyone else with control of premises, for example,
  • a facilities manager, building manager, managing agent or risk assessor,

you may also be responsible for the fire safety of a business or non-domestic property (including common ways of flats and houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) where at least 3 tenants live that forms more than 1 household and share toilet, bathroom or kitchen facilities with other tenants)

Responsible Person

If you are the ‘responsible person’ and have a legal responsibility to manage the fire protection measures in a building, and failure to do so competently can lead to prosecution under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Where necessary, this includes making sure that the appropriate fire-fighting equipment, detectors and alarms are fitted and that the premises, facilities, equipment and devices are maintained in an efficient state, of working order and good repair in order to safeguard the safety of people on the premises. The responsible person must also, where necessary, nominate a competent person to implement these measures.


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Maintaining and Resetting Alarms

Detectors may develop faults which might result in repeated unexplained automatic fire alarms. A competent person should check the fire alarm system and carry out any necessary corrective work such as replacing the faulty detector head.

Before testing or doing any maintenance work your alarms you must, if your system is monitored, inform your alarm centre that the testing and maintenance is taking place and inform them when it is completed.

If you have an automatic alarm system, make sure it is installed properly, that you know how it works and it is serviced regularly by a competent person. 

Arrange a visit to confirm that the system is still suitable for the premises and that any changes in the use of rooms have not had a detrimental effect on the type of detectors installed.

The British Standards Institutes' BS 5839 has recommendations for the planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of these systems.  

Contact your fire alarm maintenance company for advice on reducing the number of false alarms. 

Resetting alarms

UK Fire & Rescue Services do not re-set fire alarm systems, resetting the alarm system without proper investigation could also reduce the effectiveness of the subsequent investigation into the cause of the false alarm by a competent engineer.

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Make sure everyone knows who can reset your alarm. Download this poster.

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The negative impact it has on the community

  • Disruption to a business (unnecessary costs and loss of business when a building is evacuated)
  • The unnecessary risk to the public from fire engines travelling to the incident
  • Complacency "oh it's just another false alarm" - reduces the effectiveness of management plans and safety of staff
  • The cost to businesses who release on-call firefighters to attend incidents
  • The impact on the environment of unnecessary movement of fire engines
  • The cost to Taxpayers

The impact on the Fire & Rescue Service

  • Potentially putting lives at risk by diverting essential services from real fires and rescues
  • The unnecessary risk of vehicle accidents to crews when responding
  • Disruption to crew's training, arson reduction and community safety and fire safety activities.
  • Wasted cost of attendance for the Fire Service.
  • Wear and tear on vehicles

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How else can you help?

  • Remember, fire alarm systems are there to alert people to the fact that there may be a fire and, depending on your fire risk assessment and emergency plans, it is normally appropriate to investigate first and only to call the Fire Service if there are signs to indicate that there is actually a fire. 

    However, a fire might not be visible to the person investigating eg behind a wall cavity / inside a light fitting etc, so if the cause of the alarm is unknown DO NOT silence it and call 999.


  • If your fire alarm system is monitored by an alarm receiving centre (ARC), you will need to liaise between yourself, the maintainer and the ARC in order to minimise the number of false alarm calls and to make sure that the correct procedures are in place. 


  • If you are having repeat false alarms monitor the system for at least the next 6 months so that all further alarms are investigated to establish a cause and any patterns and trends are identified. 


  • Make sure staff and/or residents know what to do when the alarm goes off. 


  • Make sure that residents/tenants/occupiers are familiar with your policy on cooking and the dangers of allowing food to overheat

If you do have a fire, call 999 immediately. Do not put yourself at risk and only attempt to use extinguishers if trained and it is safe to do so.




Latest Update :
24 June 2019
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