Why false alarms could be hitting your bottom line

When is a fire not a fire? When it’s a false alarm. It’s far too easy to see a false alarm as a relief, and believe there was no harm done – but the Fire Industry Association takes an entirely different view, and encourages businesses to consider the hidden costs.

It’s estimated that false alarms cost the UK more than £1billion a year – to which your business could be contributing unwittingly. Putting aside any actual cost you might be faced with if the Brigade responds when there’s no fire to be put out, the Association invites all business owners to consider these issues:

• disruption
• downtime
• damage to reputation
• increased insurance premiums
• and the implications for real emergencies with firefighters otherwise engaged.

It’s always worth asking too if the fire and rescue service will turn out at all. Throughout the UK attendance policies involving response to automatic alarms are changing. The bottom line is that a response is not necessarily guaranteed, and it’s well worth clarifying the position in your area.

It’s estimated that calling out the fire brigade costs in the order of £850 an hour. The Association is also keen to point out that most fire alarm and detection systems don’t cause false alarms; the cause is usually poor maintenance. That said, we’ve all been caught out by smoke detectors picking up the harmless smell of toast!

It used to be that when a fire alarm went off, everyone left the building, someone rang 999 and the fire service came – but times have changed and now you have more options. They say you should always ring 999 when the alarm goes off and the fire is confirmed, but also recommend employing an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), which manages alarm signals to the service.

If you do use an ARC:

• Give them the names and mobile numbers of key staff
• Give them contact details of any key holding service/ individual/organisation who can check your premises
• Give them details of the business activities in your building e.g. normal hours of operation, processes, lone workers
• Make sure they know what steps you want them to follow if they get a fire signal

The more the ARC knows about you and your business then the more they will be able to tell the fire service so that they can efficiently deal with a real fire situation.

And finally, don’t forget that the law requires all commercial premises to take responsibility for fire safety, including the duty to make sure your system doesn’t generate false alarms.