False Fire Alarms: Common Causes & Prevention
Posted: 01/12/2022
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False fire alarms causes and prevention
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False Fire Alarms: Common Causes & Prevention

A fire alarm is an excellent way of alerting people in your building to the threat of a fire. It’s also part of your legal obligation to keep an ‘appropriate fire detection system’ in place, so it’s not good if you’re getting false alarms on a regular basis. 

With this in mind, this month at Surrey Tech Services Ltd, we’re going to be taking a look at what false alarms are and why they’re a problem, as well as what causes them and how you can minimise how many you get.

False fire alarms causes and prevention

What are false alarms?

A false alarm is when your fire alarm is triggered by accident, with no fire or danger actually present. This occurrence is sometimes called an ‘unwanted fire signal’ (UwFS) in professional circles, and it can alert your whole building, as well as the local fire brigade, causing disruption and panic when there is no need for this to happen.

But why do false alarms happen? Let’s take a look at this next.


What is the most common cause of false fire alarms?

The truth is that there is no one reason that false fire alarms happen. A fire alarm can be incorrectly triggered for a host of reasons, including the following:

  • Faulty fire alarm system – A fire alarm system that has been damaged, or that isn’t maintained regularly, can encounter faults that cause it to be triggered.
  • Human error – If a call point is accidentally broken, or a pull switch mistaken for a light switch, then your alarm will sound. This usually causes embarrassment when it’s an accident, although there are occasions when your system can be abused.
  • Non-fire-related smoke – Smoke that originates from cooking, or people smoking cigarettes in areas they shouldn’t, can cause your smoke detectors to trigger the fire alarm when there is not actually a fire.
  • Non-fire-related steam – Similarly, steam from cooking, showers or even aerosol sprays can be detected, with these airborne particles causing a false alarm to be recorded.
  • Maintenance testing fault – When you carry out a test of your fire alarm, unless it is performed correctly, you could accidentally set your system off with a full alert. This is why professional testing and maintenance should be tackled by a qualified individual.


Why are false alarms a problem?

False fire alarms can be a problem

It might be a relief to discover an alarm is a false one, to begin with, but if it keeps happening, it can become a real nuisance. Here are the four big reasons that false alarms are a problem:

  1. It causes panic – People hearing the alarm may panic or, over time, become more anxious about the topic.
  2. It wastes the fire brigade’s time – If the fire and rescue services are alerted, it can waste their time, which is a precious resource that should be reserved for genuine emergencies.
  3. Your business loses money – Every time there is a false alarm, work stops and, especially if you use machinery, it can take time to get back up to speed. All of this costs your business money and puts you behind schedule.
  4. It causes people to ignore future alarms – Once people realise that false alarms are a common occurrence within your building, they become complacent, something that could lead to fatalities if they ignore the urgency when a fire actually occurs.


How to prevent false fire alarms

Regular fire alarm maintenance is important to prevent false fire alarms

As you’ve no doubt discovered, the varied reasons for false alarms mean that it might be hard to eliminate them altogether. However, you can take steps to prevent and minimise how many false alarms your business encounters each year. 

  • Regular, professional servicing and maintenance – Keeping your system online and carrying out preemptive work to mitigate the risk of a false alarm. This should be performed to the relevant British Standard by a qualified individual.
  • Training for staff – Ensuring they know when and when not to use fire alarm trigger points, highlighting where they are to try and lower the risk of them being used by accident. This can include making someone the responsible person who will manage the fire alarm system with the right guidance.
  • Proper installation and siting of detectors – A professional fire alarm company will ensure your detectors are positioned to avoid false alarms caused by steam, cooking and excessive heat.
  • Educate yourself – By learning about the common causes and how damaging they can be, you’re already taking a small step towards preventing false alarms.

If you want to minimise the number of false alarms you get from your fire alarm, then look no further than professional fire alarm maintenance from our qualified team. At Surrey Tech Services Ltd, we are dedicated to carrying out checks and preempting potential faults and issues to ensure your system works when you really need it to — only in a real emergency. We operate across London and the Home Counties – including Maidenhead, Guildford and Slough – as leading experts when it comes to fire alarm systems and fire safety.

Contact us today to get a quote for fire alarm maintenance or to discuss a new fire alarm installation if your current system is causing issues.

Protect your business premises today

Call us now on Call us on 08081 689 497 to find out more about our fire alarm design, installation and maintenance services.


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