With effect from 1st April 2020 Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AFRS) have implemented changes to its procedures for responding to Automatic Fire Alarms (AFA) at premises. The changes are significant, as AFRS will no longer provide an automatic response to all alarms.
The objective of implementing the AFRS Service Plan (2019-2022) is to match resource to risk more effectively and ensure public safety. In a letter issued by AFRS they stated that in 2018/19 alone, they attended over 5,700 calls to AFAs, which turned out to be false alarms. With only a very small percentage of AFAs being a genuine emergency, AFRS will be categorising premises and response protocols:
Automatic response to AFAs triggered at business premises such as offices, shops, warehouses and factories will no longer take place, until a fire is confirmed.
AFRS have stated domestic premises and sleeping accommodation including residential flats, Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO), hotels, student accommodation, care homes and residential care homes and sheltered housing will still receive a response to alarms operating. Similarly, premises they deem to be high-risk will also receive a response. These are:
- Primary Care Trust Hospitals and Private Hospitals
- COMAH sites
- Heritage premises
- Critical national infrastructure
- Educational establishments
- Premises that do not fall into the above criteria but are locally determined to be unsuitable for call challenging.
If the premises is not deemed to be high-risk, AFRS will NOT respond unless the occupier confirms there is a fire or a secondary call (999) is made confirming a fire is taking place.
AFRS are encouraging all Fire Detection and Alarm Providers and Alarm Receiving Centres to make contact with the premises where contracts for the monitoring of fire alarms are in place to ensure they are aware of the changes. Contact details for the site/premises, opening times and key holder details/contact numbers should also be verified for accuracy. Given the changes, AFRS are also advising that the correct premises ‘type’ is listed.
AFRS and Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue (see our recent news item) are now implementing similar procedures and strategies in order to help reduce the cost associated with responding to false calls, which the National Fire Chiefs’ Council is calling for.
More information: www.nationalfirechiefs.org.uk/unwanted-fire-signals
As an independent specialist certification body licensed by BAFE, NSI recommends end users and the Responsible Person designated to a premises, should always contract the services of fire safety providers who are third party certificated, such as those approved by NSI. This will provide peace of mind that the risk assessment and/or installation/service has been delivered in accordance with relevant BAFE scheme requirements and industry standards. Competency is vital and only by contracting a provider who is third party certificated can the Responsible Person have confidence they are complying with their legal obligations to oversee the fire safety within a building.