Reducing false alarms

Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) has changed how it responds to Automatic Fire Alarm signals.

In 2019/20, AF&RS attended over 5,900 calls to Automatic Fire Alarms (AFA) which turned out to be false.

Each false alarm diverts emergency vehicles away from real emergencies. False alarms also impact on our prevention and protection work, core and critical training and increase the risk to road users from unnecessary blue-light responses.

Following a 6 month review of our new response standards which was introduced in March 2020 some additional changes have been introduced. 

The Fire Service will no longer send crews to automatic fire alarms triggered at Commercial premises such as offices, shops and factories. If an automatic call is received from an Alarm Receiving Company (ARC) a response will not be automatically made. Instead an attendance will only be made if a key holder can confirm that there is an actual fire.

The following premises will still receive a response to alarms operating once it has been ascertained that there is no response from anybody on site at the time of call*:

  • Sheltered Housing or Assisted Living Premises*
  • Residential care and nursing homes (these premises will not be subject to call challenging)

*ARC’s should ensure that as part of the call challenging they make an attempt to contact the site before the fire service is called

All other premises providing sleeping such as Private/Domestic Flats, Guest Houses, Hotels, and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) will be subject to a call challenge procedure. 

The service has also deemed a number of other property types as High Risk. These will receive a response but again this will be after the call challenging procedure has been carried out. These premises are broadly:

  • Primary Care Trust Hospitals and Private Hospitals
  • COMAH sites
  • Heritage premises
  • Critical national Infrastructure
  • Educational establishments
  • Premises that do not fall into the above criteria but are locally determined to be unsuitable for call challenging

The call challenge procedure involves our own control staff asking the ARC to contact the site to confirm if there is a fire. If this is out of hours a key holder will be requested to attend. A response from the Service will only be made to these premises if there is no response from the premises and there is no key holder available or the key holder confirms there is a fire on their arrival. In essence, this will mean questions will be asked of the responsible/competent person as to the reason for the alarm activation before the decision is made to respond to the premises

Competent persons should be appointed to assist in the investigation of the alarms activation and they should have an understanding of the alarm system and be confident in their ability to carry out the investigation.

You must ensure you have an effective investigation procedure:

  • Review your alarm management strategy. Do you have a delayed alarm so that you can investigate the cause before calling the Fire Service?
  • Ensure regular maintenance of your fire alarm.
  • Ensure you have a suitable number of responsible people and key holders who can attend the premises out of hours.
  • If you are linked to an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) ensure they have the correct contact details for the premises, opening hours and the key holder’s details.
  • Investigate all false alarms and look at what you can do to stop them happening again.
  • Put in place a strategy to investigate the cause of the activation the moment it happen so that your staff can quickly identify false alarms, reset the system and return to work.


Get involved!

We can all play a part in reducing false alarms and often simple changes to staff routines can make a big difference.

Displaying our leaflets and posters in key areas of your premises will remind your colleagues of the impact false alarms can have on your business and community.


Print and display our poster and leaflets around your business





The impact of false alarms can be far reaching

Your fire and rescue service:

  • Diverting essential services from real fires and rescues (putting lives at risk);
  • Unnecessary risk to crews and the public while responding (accidents);
  • Disruption to training, arson reduction and community safety activities (education saves lives); and
  • Cost of attendance to Council Tax payers.

Your business:

  • Down time from evacuations
  • Disruption to production
  • Annoyed customers
  • Fire service charge for attending

Your Reputation

  • Image of complacency about life safety
  • Loss of confidence from staff and the fire service
  • Risk of prosecution/charge


Get help

Free advice from your fire and rescue service, along with good fire alarm management, can help to ensure an effective and trouble-free Automatic Fire Detection and Alarm System. For advice on how to reduce false alarms, please get in touch using our business safety contact form.Useful guidance is also available on The Chief Fire Officers Association website.


Help us in our campaign to reduce false alarms

If you would like access to our full campaign pack including images suitable for social media please contact our Corporate Communications team This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.