False alarm!

The sound of a fire alarm is deliberately awful on the ears as it is designed to alert you to danger. The alarm sounding is meant to set off a chain of events including evacuating the premises, locating the fire and taking appropriate measures to contain or extinguish the flames, if it is safe for us to do so. Calling the emergency services is also high on that list, and for customers with monitored fire alarms this may be an automatic process. The problem with false alarms is that when the emergency procedures are implemented and the fire brigade is called. This wastes time and money which could be better spent dealing with a real fire. The London Fire Brigade responds to a false alarm approximately every ten seconds with the cost to the taxpayer approximately £37 million every year.

Taxpayer concerns aside the other things that happen when there are a lot of false alarms are that homeowners, staff and neighbours start to ignore it and the alarm sounding becomes a normal, everyday occurrence. When there is a real emergency it is ignored, as people assume it’s just another false alarm and this is a very dangerous place to be in – like the tale of the boy who cried wolf.

The placement of alarms and sensors is one of the most important factors in avoiding false alarms. Some systems are very sensitive and this can be a positive thing. When these systems are located with sensors very close to cooking areas or bathrooms, however, they trigger a lot of false alarms, as the steam or smoke and heat associated with normal cooking can play havoc with the sensors. For this reason they should not be placed within 5 metres of an area that might cause a trigger. Attention should also be paid to commercial heating and climate control ducts, as these can also trigger an alarm through emitting heat and dust caught in the filters and vents can also cause the alarm to go off.

Alarm system maintenance is also very important as it is these regular checks which flag up any issues or faults that might otherwise go undetected, leading to a fire emergency also going undetected. P & R Alarms have a team of highly experienced technicians who can attend your premises every 6 or 12 months to carry out regular maintenance and operational checks. It is also important for the smoke and fire alarm owners to carry out light maintenance in between these times; including checking batteries and clearing any accumulated dust and cobwebs away from the sensor. It is also worth testing the sensors regularly to ensure they work alongside your mandated fire drills. Your insurance provider will stipulate regular maintenance in order to keep your policy valid, so do ensure you are meeting their requirements in order to stay on the right side of the law.

Any faulty components, such as a sensor which doesn’t work when tested, or alarms that beep regularly for no reason should be fixed as soon as possible. We offer our clients a call-out package that means we can get your system seen within four hours, and fixed very soon after. Older systems which have accumulated a lot of faults and repairs may need to be upgraded to provide a good level of cover and we can advise on the best way to protect your premises and keep your insurance provider happy.

At P & R Alarms we always ensure we avoid these common pitfalls of sensor placement and irregular maintenance, so you have a much lower chance of having a string of false alarms and can be more certain that the alarm sounding is a genuine emergency.