Recent statistics have once again shown…

…that false fire alarms are the leading cause of fire & rescue services (FRS) callouts in the UK. In the year ending December 2023, false fire alarms were the reason for 42% of all incidents attended by FRSs – compared to 34% for non-fire incidents and 24% for fire incidents. This is a 2.8% increase on the previous year’s figures, and a 10% increase compared with ten years ago.

Not only are false alarms estimated to cost the economy in excess of £1bn a year, they also endanger lives. Every time a rescue service is called out to a false alarm, it can potentially stop, or delay, them attending a real emergency.

They can also cause ‘alarm fatigue’ – where repeated false alarms cause workers or residents to become complacent when they hear an alarm sound. This can obviously be catastrophic should a real incident occur.

So what constitutes a false fire alarm? According to, false fire alarm incidents can broadly be categorised as follows:

Due to apparatus – Where an alarm can sound in error, for example a malfunction.

Good intent – Where a person believes an emergency is occurring, and calls a FRS in good faith

Malicious – Where a person calls out a FRS knowing there is no emergency

Thankfully those callouts classed as malicious are in the minority, with due to apparatus being by far the most common cause  – accounting for over two thirds of all false alarm callouts.

But what can be done to prevent false alarms? Thankfully there are several actions that have been shown to help:

  • Make sure all alarms and detectors are regularly serviced. This will help ensure any potential faults are identified and resolved before they lead to a false alarm. If you have a monitored alarm system, you must inform the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) that testing will be taking place, and confirm once it’s completed.
  • Fit covers to all manual call points to avoid the risk of the glass breaking accidentally, especially in high traffic areas.
  • Ensure your fire detection equipment is up-to-date, and you are not using old or obsolete technology. For example, consider replacing single-sensor detectors with multi-sensors.
  • Keep a log of any false alarms so you can identify possible trends or patterns.
  • Isolate any areas where construction or contractor work is taking place. This can avoid any stirred up dust or chemicals setting off an alarm.
  • Carefully review your fire risk assessment and create an action plan to reduce the chance of false alarms occurring.
  • Educate occupants, so they know when (and when not to) use a manual call point or raise an alarm.

The good news is false alarms are, for the most part, entirely avoidable. If you want to minimise the risk of false alarms, discuss fire alarm maintenance and servicing, or find out whether your alarm system needs updating, contact CIA’s team of experts today.

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