The LWF Blog

Facilities and Fire Alarm Systems – Dealing with False Alarms Pt 3

May 8, 2014 2:05 pm

The last two parts of this three part series have looked at the causes of false fire alarms within Facilities and have, in the main, centred around the fact that most false alarm triggers are not caused by the fire alarm system itself. However, it is true that some repeat false fire alarms are caused by issues with the protection system. This blog looks at the various ways that an automated system can be the cause of false fire alarms and how to approach identifying and dealing with the problem.

Damage to the fire alarm system

Physical, mechanical damage to your fire warning system should result not in false fire alarms, but in error lights on your console. However, in rare circumstances, it may be that this has also become faulty. The alarm sensors themselves when manufactured to British Standards, include safeguards which mean it is highly unlikely to be the cause, but if you have any concerns about the appropriate and safe performance of your fire alarm system, contact the installer immediately or, if they are unavailable, another qualified installer, to review and repair your system. Any damage to a fire alarm system installed in your facility can lead to a situation which endangers every person in the facility, in case of fire.

Incorrect Installation

Although the actual wiring and installation of a fire alarm system can seem a simple enough task to a tradesman or lay person, it is actually essential that the installer is a fire specialist. Often, when a building is being constructed or renovated prior to occupation, one building contractor is asked to undertake various jobs of work, one of which may be installing a fire alarm system.

While this may seem the simplest and often most economical road to travel, it can prove dangerous. An individual or company untrained in fire prevention cannot be expected to assess the individual fire risk of each area of the building and install the appropriate type of sensor, or to adapt the sensors to take into account levels of dust or sunlight within the room, for example.  

A fire alarm system should be designed and installed with the building use taken into account, by an experienced and qualified fire alarm specialist to ensure building and occupant safety. At the very least, if this is not approached correctly, you may experience false fire alarms.

The Loss Prevention Certification Board produce a publication called ‘The Red Book’ which allows you to search for products and companies which are certified through their safety scheme. It is advisable to ensure that your fire alarm installer is certified in this way. You can search online at the Red Book Live website

Other considerations

It is not necessarily a good idea to link your fire protection system in with other building management related software. A fire protection system does not require hands on, day-to-day administration and so it can be a mistake to rely on software which is used on a regular basis for other purposes, causing errors or mistakes which are preventable.

An installer of a fire alarm system who is inexperienced may install too many sensors in the facility, they may feel that this makes the building more safe. However, that is often not the case and can, in fact, lead to more false alarms.

Modern fire alarm systems are sensitive and ‘environment intelligent’. They are well designed and installed by a certified installer who has taken into account all the requirements and uses of your building. They are, however, often not at the cheaper end of the market and so processes such as compulsory competitive tendering can be prohibitive to gaining the best fire protection system for the facility. The best time to prevent false fire alarms or faults with the fire alarm system is before it is chosen and installed.

If you have any queries about this blog series or would like to know more about effective fire alarm system design and prevention of false alarms in existing designs, please contact Peter Gyere on 0208  668 8663.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.

Share this post