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January 24, 2023

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False alarms

Improving fire detection performance for building owners, responsible persons, and facilities management teams

Here, experts from Hochiki Europe highlight some of the considerations building owners, responsible persons and facilities management teams might want to think about when it comes to false alarms and how the compliant installation and maintenance of your fire detection system can help prevent them.

The responsible person for a commercial building, including shared areas in houses of multiple occupation (HMOs), blocks of flats and maisonettes, are required by law to ensure the equipment and procedures are in place to detect, alert and notify all occupants of the building, to act in the event of a fire. Any device and/or system could trigger a false alarm if it is not properly installed, unsuitable for the environment, or inadequately maintained.

Guidance is provided in the Code of Practice for Design, Installation, Commissioning and Maintenance of Fire Alarm Systems in non-domestic premises – BS5839 Part 1.

Hochiki-FalseAlarmsWebinar-23This list is not exhaustive, and we always recommend that you trust your fire detection installation and maintenance with a company that is BAFE registered.


Watch Hochiki Europe’s CPD-accredited webinar to find out more about False Alarm Reduction, aimed at building owners, end users, installers and specifiers, here >>


Installation Stage

Building use – The type of environment will dictate the type of fire detection technology used. For example, a cold store warehouse vs a dry store warehouse will require very different types of fire detection due to the temperatures the devices have to work at.

Cable routes – ensuring fire alarm cables are clearly marked and separated from other services will help avoid electrical interference that can trigger a false alarm.

Air conditioning – during installation these units are to be avoided when siting detection equipment that relies on the presence of smoke.

Air ducts – careful consideration is needed here as these can interfere with smoke detectors, potentially drawing smoke away or blowing contaminated air into detectors.

Vandalism – When installing detection devices, it’s important to make sure they are out of reach from casual vandalism or direct tampering by building tenants. The BS5839 standard was updated in 2017 to include the recommendation of fitting mechanical covers to call points in public areas – to reduce the temptation for malicious activations.

Specialist extraction – In areas such as kitchens, shower rooms, saunas – specialised extraction will need to be employed, to keep detectors free from steam or other contaminants.

Other specific environmental considerations regarding air-borne contaminants to consider at installation stage could be:

  • Nursing homes – skin and dust
  • Event spaces – smoke and steam
  • Hotels – aerosols and steam
  • Restaurants – flames and smoke

EvacuationOngoing Maintenance

When it comes to maintenance there are things to consider when looking to reduce false alarms, most importantly a maintenance contract with a competent service provider, preferably certificated to BAFE SP203 part 1.

Fire Alarm Control Panel – Any faults should be reported at the fire alarm control panel within 100 seconds, therefore it’s important to carry out regular maintenance of the panel and every device on the system should be tested at least once a year.

Cleaning – Badly contaminated detectors should either be cleaned or replaced by a professional. A detector’s maintenance status can be reported at the fire panel.

Renovated buildings – Over time a buildings’ usage may change. Building owners should bear in mind as these spaces change use, the detection system may need to be updated too. Devices can be relocated to accommodate a building change of use or the introduction of a new risk, but this must be carried out by a qualified fire system engineer

Age – The age of the system can be a contributing factor to false alarms. As a system or devices age, their effectiveness at dealing with false signals can decrease. Most system manufacturers recommend that their equipment has a 10-year life span and so this should be factored in at the consultation and specification stage.

To avoid false alarms and deal with any occurrences efficiently and safely, building owners or facility managers must ensure that the businesses or tenants using the building, either temporarily or on a more permanent basis, are given detailed, up-to-date information on fire escape routes and locations of firefighting equipment.

They should also be educated about the fire alarm system and activities to be avoided, such as smoking or vaping in the building, being aware of sensors outside kitchen and bathroom doors, but most importantly, the serious implications of tampering with the system or its devices which could lead to false alarms or no alarms given at the outbreak of a real fire.


To learn more about reducing false alarms, watch Hochiki Europe’s CPD-accredited webinar on False Alarm Reduction, aimed at building owners, end users, installers and specifiers.

Watch the Webinar

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