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False alarm? Let us know!

Published
27.10.2017

We’ve all been there…Left the bread in the toaster for too long and spent an age wafting the smoke away from the smoke alarm with a tea-towel. But would you think to let the fire service know?

Cooking fumes are now the most common cause of false alarms in homes where the fire alarm system is linked directly to a call centre. Followed by old detectors and even steam from a kettle or shower.

Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) attend 1,000 fire alarm activations every year and less than 1% of these call outs actually require crews to use equipment and put out a fire.

Now, the fire service is urging people with fire alarm systems to let them know if the smoke alarm has gone off accidentally. The quickest way to do this is to contact Fire Control by dialling 999 and asking for Fire. This will stop a fire engine being sent out, and means the crew are available for actual emergencies.

Smoke alarms are designed to give an early warning and help protect life and property. The benefit of more advanced technology is that alarm systems are better at differentiating between a false alarm and a real fire situation. If installed correctly, a modern fire alarm system should be more reliable and less costly.

This is particularly the case for UK businesses where the true cost of false alarms is staggering £1 billion a year. The best solution for businesses is to have an ‘intelligent’ programmable alarm system as well as a robust keyholder arrangement to investigate alarm activations out of hours.

Stewart Edgar, chief fire officer at Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “While it might seem strange to dial 999 to stop a fire engine arriving on blue lights, it is the best way to prevent a valuable resource getting caught up in a non emergency.

“Alarms going off in a block of flats might seem like an inconvenience or an annoyance, but people may not realise that a fire engine is on the way with blue lights and sirens.

“By calling us on 999, we can establish far more quickly whether we are dealing with an emergency or not. However, if there is ever any doubt, we will always attend.”