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Automatic fire alarms in commercial buildings- what businesses need to know

The fire service is changing the way it responds to automatic fire alarms in some types of commercial premises.

What do I need to know?

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue will no longer automatically mobilise fire engines to automatic fire alarms in some types of commercial premises from 6 January 2020.

Currently we automatically send fire engines to premises the moment a fire alarm goes off and the signal is passed, by a receiving centre, onto 999 control operators.

Instead, we will only mobilise fire engines if we receive a call to confirm there is definitely a fire.

Why is this change being implemented?

About 97% of the automatic fire alarms the service attended in business premises in the last three years turned out to be false alarms. Fire crews wasted more than 1,000 hours investigating the cause of those false alarms- time which could have been better spent training, working in the community or being available to attend other, genuine incidents.

The change also brings South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue in line with the position of many other fire and rescue services nationally and that of the National Fire Chiefs Council.

Which premises will this apply to?

The change will affect:

  • Offices
  • Shops
  • Industrial buildings
  • Public buildings like libraries or museums
  • Places of worship

Which premises does this not apply to?

Premises unaffected by the change are:

  • Domestic properties with fire / smoke alarms
  • Other sleeping risk premises – including hospitals, sheltered housing, care or homes, houses of multiple occupation, flats, high-rise tower blocks, hotels, bedsits, boarding schools, colleges, universities or halls of residence
  • Schools
  • Heritage sites
  • Large industrial sites, covered by COMAH legislation
  • National critical infrastructure.
  • Shops with homes or sleeping accommodation above/below

As a business owner, what do I need to do?

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, it’s the responsibility of businesses to ensure their alarm systems are checked regularly and maintained properly, to eliminate false alarms and make sure the alarm operates as it should do in the event of a genuine emergency. You will find more information here about automatic fire alarm systems and reducing unwanted fire signals.

In particular, business owners are advised to review their Emergency Plan to ensure that in the event of an alarm activation the following areas are considered:

  • During the normal working day a procedure should be in place for staff in the building to liaise with the Alarm Receiving Centre and confirm whether the Fire and Rescue Service need to be called in the event of a fire alarm activation
  • Outside of normal working hours contact details for nominated persons should be available to the Alarm Receiving Centre so that a responsible person can be called to attend the premises and determined the nature of the incident prior to the Fire and Rescue Service being called

The responsible person should contact their Alarm Receiving Centre as soon as possible to ensure they are aware of these new arrangements.

This content was last updated on November 14th, 2019