Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) is tackling the growing challenge of false alarms with a new policy aimed at reducing unnecessary call-outs.
The new False Alarm Policy, set to be introduced on 1 February, 2024, is a response to the increase in false alarms which have reached an unsustainable level.
From 2017 to 2022, 98.7% of automatic fire alarms in Northern Ireland were false alarms, with only a small proportion of the remaining 1.3% being actual fires.
NIFRS responded to a record number of false alarms in 2022, deploying 10,294 Fire Appliances.
How NIFRS responds to automatic fire alarms will change with the new policy setting out specific responsibilities for fire alarm monitoring organisations, installers, maintainers, and users of fire alarm systems.
The new policy won’t impact residential settings, such as hospitals, care homes, hotels, and dwellings. However, it will affect commercial premises, such as factories, offices, and shops, altering how automatic fire alarms are handled.
The response will depend on the type of premises and the information provided at the time of an emergency call.
Duty holders in premises that are occupied and do not contain sleeping accommodation will be required to verify there is a fire before contacting emergency services.
The policy will help ensure that Firefighters are available for actual emergencies, optimise the use of public funds, and reduce costs due to disruption and loss of productivity to businesses.
NIFRS Group Commander Geoff Somerville said: “If we receive reports of a fire or signs of fire we will always mobilise immediately to the premises. However, we are encouraging fire alarm monitoring organisations and property managers to investigate a fire alarm prior to calling Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service.” “NIFRS Regional Control Centre will dispatch the nearest resource if evidence of a fire is found or reported, but it is not legally obliged to respond to fire alarm signals if there is no fire or signs of a fire. NIFRS is committed to delivering the highest level of service to the community while ensuring responsible use of public funds.”