East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo
East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo

Changing our response to automatic fire alarms

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is calling on commercial premises to get ready for a change in our respond to your automatic fire alarms.

It’s because of the high number of times alarms sound and resources are sent to the scene when there is no actual fire.

Resources sent to the right place, at the right time

George O’Reilly, Group Manager (Protection) said:  

“We want to ensure we are able to send our resources to the right place, at the right time to deal with emergencies and help prevent them in the first place.  

False alarms from automatic systems cause significant disruption to our training, fire safety and community safety work and, crucially, while firefighters are investigating the cause of the alarm, they cannot attend emergencies where lives are at risk.” 

Low risk premises

Because of all of these impacts, our Service plans to no longer attend fire alarms operating in low risk commercial premises, between 0900hrs and 1700hrs Monday to Friday (except bank holidays) unless we receive telephone confirmation that there is a fire.  

Low risk premises are classified as premises with no sleeping risk, such as offices, shops, factories, pubs, clubs and restaurants.   

In these premises, when people are present, trained members of staff are able to confirm there is a fire and call 999 for the Fire Service; we would then send the appropriate resources to deal with the incident. 

When people are not present, (such as when businesses are closed typically between 1700hrs and 0900hrs and at weekends and bank holidays), the life risk is very low however the impact on the business may be greater. Therefore at these times we will continue to respond to Automatic Fire Alarms in the normal way. 

The changes are due to take effect in April 2022. 

Responding to emergencies, not false alarms 

George adds: 

“Our advice to the general public remains the same – if you have a fire or can see other signs of a fire such as smoke, call 999. If you are in a commercial building and the fire alarm sounds, follow the evacuation guidance and instructions from staff.  Working with businesses, we can help make sure our firefighters are using their time effectively, responding to emergencies, not false alarms.” 

What action should be taken?

We are working with the premises management who are impacted by these changes to help them improve their own fire safety measures. 

Some of the measures we would expect management to carry out include: 

1) Reviewing the premises Fire Risk Assessment and emergency plan.  

2) Train adequate numbers of staff to investigate fire alarms to establish the cause and call the Fire Service if there is a fire.  

3) Updating alarm companies and insurers.  

4) Investigating what has caused false alarms in the past and speak to your fire alarm maintainer about any possible solutions. 

Find out more at www.esfrs.org/timeforchange 

Facts and figures 

Of the 1028 calls generated from automatic fire alarm and detection systems received and attended in 2018 and 2019 between 0900 and 1700, just 16 (1.55%) were recorded as primary fires.* 

Out of the 16 primary fires, 10 required no firefighting action by East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and just two required a hose/reel or jet to extinguish the fire. 

There were no fatalities or injuries related to Automatic Fire Alarm calls in commercial premises in the two years from 1st Jan 2018 to 31st December 2019.

Automatic Fire Alarm calls to commercial premises by time of day

Automatic Fire Alarm calls to commercial premises by time of day

* Primary fires are defined as fires that cause damage by fire/heat/smoke and meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • any fire that occurred in a (non-derelict) building, vehicle or (some) outdoor structures
  • any fire involving fatalities, casualties or rescues
  • any fire attended by five or more pumping appliance 
Source: assets.publishing.service.gov.uk


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