Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) is changing the way it responds to automatic fire alarms (AFAs) and is urging Kent businesses, building owners and those responsible for fire safety in a building to ensure they are prepared.

From 2nd April 2012, all calls from automatic fire alarms challenged by the service's 999 staff. During the day (6am to 6pm), unless the incident can be confirmed to be an actual fire or signs of fire, an engine will not be sent.

However, for a further year (to April 2013), a fire engine will be sent to calls to automatic fire alarms received at night (6pm to 6 am), where a procedure has not been introduced to confirm a fire. This is to allow those responsible for managing premises extra time to make any required changes to their procedures. This change will apply to all calls whether they are made from the affected building, through a call handling organisation or some other method.

False fire alarms account for a third of all calls KFRS attends, with the majority (98%) triggered by dust or poorly maintained systems. The impact of unwanted AFAs is far reaching and places an avoidable burden on businesses, as wells as being an unnecessary inconvenience to those working or living in the affected building.

Throughout the year, fire safety officers have talked to organisations and business across Kent and Medway, advising those responsible for managing fire safety procedures and fire alarm systems about the changes, and reminding them that it is their responsibility to ensure their systems operate correctly, are properly maintained and do not produce unwanted calls.

Following the changes, they will need to be clear on what to do when the alarm goes off, how they will check if there is a fire or signs of fire, and will need to ensure that their fire risk assessment takes into account the changes.

In response to feedback during our consultation on these changes, KFRS will ask sheltered accommodation to let us know if the call is a false alarm. If this is not possible then the fire service will attend. However, we will expect these organisations to investigate false alarms and take any actions necessary to reduce them in future.

Whether it is a disruption to productivity, lost custom or general inconvenience, research by the DCLG suggests that the cost to the economy from unwanted fire calls is nearly £1 billion per year. With repeated false alarms occupants often become complacent and fail to evacuate the building fully, potentially putting lives at risk in the event of a genuine fire.

KFRS Director Service Delivery Steve Griffiths said: "Each call takes firefighters and equipment away from genuine emergencies where lives may be at risk and causes disruption on the roads because, in the majority of the cases, firefighters arrive on blue lights and no action is required.

"By making these changes, we expect to see the number of calls from alarm systems significantly reduce, so reducing the impact on business, other building users and the fire service. KFRS will continue to support building managers by providing guidance and advice on reducing unwanted calls. It will also free up our resources to focus on responding to genuine emergencies, alongside our preventative fire safety work."


For further information visit KFRS's website at


Posted March 16th, 2012 at 1140 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: