16 July 2014

New CFOA guidance for the reduction of false alarms and unwanted fire signals has been published by the CFOA. Of particular interest to FIA members is that it fully promotes the value of Third Party Certification and specifically refers to the BAFE scheme (see page 23 of the report).

“Over many years the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) have been working with partners to reduce the number of Unwanted Fire Signals (UwFS) that are generated from premises protected by automatic fire detection and fire alarm (AFA) systems. A considerable reduction (about a third) has been seen in recent years. However, despite this reduction, it remains clear that there is still the need for significant improved action associated with the management of false alarms and the numbers of resulting UwFS,” says the CFOA.

“Individual FRS have to now consider new response strategies to AFA systems to reduce the overall cost of such calls and to meet the requirements of locally determined Integrated Risk Management Plans. In addition, the Localism Act has provided Fire and Rescue Authorities with the power to put in place a charging policy in support of its strategy to deal with unwanted fire signals from automatic fire detection systems.”

The CFOA states that it continues to advocate a partnership approach as being the best way to deal with the problem of UwFS from AFA systems. 

“Clear responsibilities and expectations exist between all of the stakeholders, namely, the responsible person at the premises, the alarm receiving and monitoring centres, the industry sector responsible for the design, installation, servicing and maintenance of the system and the FRS”.

There is a toolkit to help FRS formulate local strategies and policies, which is designed to provide a step by step process, with a holistic approach from the design stage through to installation, commissioning, management, filtering and the FRS response, performance monitoring and follow-up visits.

There are six key components to the toolkit:

Highlighting the problem of unwanted calls and false alarms from AFA systems

Prevention of false alarms

Confirmation of the cause of alarm before calling the Fire and Rescue Service

Call handling by the Fire and Rescue Service

Investigation and follow up of false alarm calls

Stakeholder engagement

Individual FRS are advised to ‘cherry pick’ which components are the best fit for their own policies for managing risk.

There are also clear guidelines for dealing with poor performance. The scale of the problem caused by unwanted calls is such that a FRS would want to take a strategic approach to reducing the calls, combining measures to engage with, influence and, where necessary, regulate those who are responsible for managing buildings with AFA systems. This guidance directs FRS towards options for reducing these calls including:

Supporting the Responsible Person

FRS interventions

Stakeholder engagement

Call Filtering by FRS Control operators

Reducing attendance

A key area where false alarms and unwanted fire signals can be reduced is through the Fire Alarm Monitoring Organisations. Appendix B of this guidance contains a Code of Practice for Summoning a Fire Response via Fire Alarm Monitoring Organisations. The Guidance details how this Code of Practice aligns with its recommended approach and should be referred to for further information.

The Code of Practice has been produced to establish an agreed best practice between FRS and representatives from the industry of Fire Alarm Monitoring Organisations. It outlines best practice in improving the emergency response arrangements for fire alarm and fire detection systems which are remotely monitored. It also outlines how to reduce the number of unwanted fire signals passed to the FRS.

“CFOA and the Fire Alarm Monitoring Industry have agreed to work together to meet four?principle aims to improve management of fire alarm systems, false alarms and unwanted fire?signals,” says the CFOA. 

These include:

Agree and implement fire alarm monitoring protocols.

Agree and implement false alarm filtering protocols.

Agree and implement connection protocols between FRS and fire alarm monitoring centres.

Reduce unwanted fire signals.

“The Code of Practice sets out the recommended expectations of the actions of both Fire Alarm?Monitoring Organisations and the FRS. It concludes with a CFOA and FAMO Commitment?Declaration, completion of which demonstrates the commitment shown by the organisations?who have agreed to operate in accordance with this Code of Practice. CFOA will publish a?register of FRS and FAMOs who have adopted the Code of Practice on their website.”

The overall objective of the guidance is for all stakeholders to work collaboratively, in order to ensure that ignoring?persistent false alarms rather than fixing the problem, is not acceptable.

The Guidance was formally launched in June at the FireEx Conference – A View from the Top Floor, having been widely consulted on by all UK FRS and others within the fire safety sector, including support from the Fire Industry Association, British Security Industry, Telecare Services Association, Fire & Security Association, National Security Inspectorate and Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (UK). It has also been presented to CFOA’s Business Engagement Forum.

Download the full guidance document.

Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

Original source: http://www.cfoa.org.uk/10863