Investigating an Automatic Fire Alarm Actuation

Guidance for Premises Managers

Avon Fire and Rescue Service will in many cases no longer send fire appliances to calls from buildings where the only information available is “the fire alarm is sounding”.  The advice detailed below is to assist you in ensuring that in the event of an actual fire the Fire and Rescue Service responds to your premises.

Building managers will need to investigate the source of the automatic fire alarm (AFA) actuation provided this can be done safely. The fire alarm signal should initiate the appropriate evacuation of the premises.

When staff are investigating the cause of an actuation and they discover signs of a fire they should leave by the nearest fire exit, call 999 and Avon Fire and Rescue Service will respond.

How to Investigate

Remember that you are looking for signs of a fire and not necessarily the fire itself.

If possible search in pairs.

Check the fire alarm panel to find out where the alarm has actuated - use the alarm zone / detector plan which should be immediately adjacent to the fire alarm panel.

Have a member of the staff remain at the panel and keep in contact via mobile phone or hand-held radio.

When investigating look, listen, feel and smell for signs of fire. Look for smoke, listen for unusual crackling noises, is it unusually hot

Before opening a door feel it with the back of your hand, as high up the door as you can reach, for signs of heat. If it is hot DO NOT OPEN the door.

If at any time you suspect or discover signs of fire, raise the alarm, get out using the nearest fire exit and call 999.

When the call to the fire service is made clearly state that an investigation has taken place and that this is a call to a FIRE and not just an alarm sounding.

Ensure your building is being evacuated in accordance with your alarm procedure, before doing anything else.

What if There is No Sign of Fire?

The following advice is to assist you comply with fire safety legislation and keep your staff and premises safe from fire:

Allow the evacuation to continue - interrupting an evacuation is confusing and leads to a false sense that all alarms are false.

Ensure that whoever is given the responsibility to reset the fire alarm is trained and competent to do so. If arrangements have been made with a third party to ensure that the alarm is reset, details of this process should be displayed immediately adjacent to the panel. These procedures will need to be regularly checked so ensure their reliability.

Any third party company contracted to reset your fire alarm should be able to respond within a reasonable time period as most alarms will not have full functionality until they are reset.

Avon Fire and Rescue Service will NOT reset your fire alarm system for you. It is your responsibility to reset, or employ a third party company to do this for you.

The details of any false alarms should be recorded in the fire alarm logbook. Record the cause and location of the alarm. This is essential to demonstrate fire safety compliance and to identify and problems with the alarm system.

All AFA actuations should be reported to the premises manager so that appropriate action can be taken to avoid further false alarms.