Why Reduce False Alarms?
False Alarms have a big impact on both CFA and the community.
1. Increased Risk of Accident and Injury
- CFA responds to all emergencies under “lights and sirens”, including calls that are found to be false alarms. Unwanted and unnecessary calls increase the risk of accident and injury to fire fighters and the general public.
2. Public Safety
- Delayed response - Vehicles and personnel that are deployed to a false alarm are out of action. If a real emergency occurs at the same time, appliances will have to travel further reducing the response time
- Complacency - Many false alarms can cause complacency, which can have grave consequences to the community
- Tampering – Never attempt to tamper with your alarm system or with the signal sent to the fire services. This is a serious breach of public safety and has legal consequences. In addition a false alarm may incur a substantial charge.
- Congestion to 000 – Unnecessary calls impact the efficiency of emergency call takers by delaying the receiving of genuine emergency calls.
3. Waste of Business resources – time and money
- Fire Service Charges – False Alarm charges can be substantial when there is no reasonable excuse
- Disruption to business activities – Evacuations cause unproductive downtime to a business
- Maintenance time and money – inefficient fire alarm systems can result in additional maintenance work and charges
4. Waste of Brigade resources
- Volunteer fatigue – Most of CFA’s fire fighting personnel are volunteers, who attend calls in their own personal time or during their working day, often detracting from time with their families and friends, at ‘inconvenient’ times (i.e. late at night), and taking them away from their place of employment. Unwanted false alarms place an additional strain on CFA’s volunteers
- Brigade resources – Time spent at false alarms is less time and resources CFA Brigades can devote towards fundraising, community work, fire prevention, and other proactive practices.
In accordance with Part 11 of the Building Regulations 1994, the owner is required to maintain the building’s essential services, which include required fire detection and alarm systems.
In a recent initiative the Building Commission, fire services, approved monitoring companies and municipal building surveyors have developed procedures and reporting processes to ensure building owners and managers can be educated and adhere to legal compliance.
Should it come to the attention of any of these parties that a fire alarm system is not operating correctly, any of the following may occur:
- The fire services may contact you to advise correct procedures. If necessary they can inspect your premises and may issue an ESAN (Essential Services Advisory Notice)
- The Municipal Building Surveyor will be notified should a fire alarm system be disconnected without a building permit or continuously isolated inappropriately. A building Infringement Notice can be served if necessary (penalties apply)
- Non-compliance may result in penalties or other enforcement measures as specified in the Building Act 1993 and the Building Regulations 1994. These include monetary fines, and may require evacuation of the building in certain circumstances.
For complete information on legal compliance please refer to the reference documents which can be obtained from the Building Commision website.
- Building Regulations 1994 – Part 11
- Practice Note 2002-40 issued by the Building Commission
- Practice Note 2002-23 issued by the Building Commission
- AS 4428.6 – Fire detection, warning control and intercom systems – control and indicating equipment – ASE
- AS 1670.3 – Fire detection, warning control and intercom systems – system, design, installation and commissioning.
The Building Commission has also published an Essential Services Maintenance Manual which is a great practical guide that includes clear information on fire detection and suppression equipment. It may be purchased from the Building Commission by:
Web: www.buildingcommission.com.au (type the name of the manual into search function)
In Person: Building Commission, Casselden Place, Level 27, 2 Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC
Management of your site
Owners and their representatives must ensure that their fire alarm system and the entire site it protects is managed effectively to provide fire safety and to mitigate unwanted false alarms.
In developing management systems, the challenge is to ‘think outside the square’ to foresee any possible problems and implement prevention strategies before a false alarm occurs.
The management of your site may include:
1. Appointment of a responsible person
- Does your building or site have an appointed person responsible to oversee the management of the fire alarm system?
- CFA is aware of a number of companies that have already taken this step – it has proved to be positive in reducing false alarms.
- Personnel that have been appointed to this role include site engineers, building managers and fire wardens and they should be motivated, authoritative, and receive training in all aspects of your fire alarm system and monitoring equipment.
2. Procedures for visitors including sub-contractors
- Can builders, tradespeople, cleaners etc. enter your site at will, or do you have procedures in place to control their egress?
- Smoke detectors activate from dust, heat, fumes, etc. that are the common product of trade activities, and so it may be necessary for specific zones or circuits of the fire alarm system to be isolated prior to work commencing. Managing an Isolated Alarm is a priority when this occurs.
- Procedures should be implemented to protect your fire alarm system from generating these types of unwanted false alarms.
3. Education and training of personnel
- For personnel responsible for the fire alarm system, training should include:
- correct testing procedures
- correct isolation procedures
- liaison with the fire maintenance company
- For staff and occupants of the site, education should include:
- overview of the fire alarm system, including detector types and positions
- information on which activities and conditions are likely to activate the fire alarm system
- information on policies and procedures that may affect the fire alarm system
4. Evaluation of your detector positions, type and calibration levels
- Detector types (eg. smoke, thermal) should be chosen to suit the environment and must comply with Australian Standards
- The calibration or sensitivity of the detectors may need to be adjusted
- The position of detectors may need to be considered
- Advances in New Technology may assist.
Note: If you wish to modify any part of your fire alarm system, all changes must be approved by a registered building surveyor.
We suggest you advise your insurance company of any intended changes.