Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MF&RS) is introducing a new risk-based approach which aims to reduce the number of Unwanted Fire Signals (UwFS) attended as a result of False Alarms from Automatic Fire Alarms systems activating.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service class any actuation of an automatic fire alarm that is not a fire or there is no evidence of fire as unwanted.

The aim is to reduce the number of calls received annually, which last year was 6,108, of which 95% (5,802) were Unwanted Fire Signals. Of those 5,802 Unwanted Fire Signals, non-residential premises were responsible for 44.5%, whilst hospitals and prisons accounted for a further 12.1%.

This will contribute to the management of road risk to firefighter crews and other roadusers by reducing the number of calls attended under blue lights to false alarms, and to increase the hours available for community safety and fire prevention work, firefighter training and the gathering of risk critical information.

Unwanted Fire Signals have increased by 13.7% over the past five years despite numerous strategies implemented by Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MF&RS) to reduce them. They now account for 26.7% of all calls to the Service’s 26 Community Fire Stations.

From 31st October 2012, between the hours of 7.30am and 7.30pm, MF&RS will challenge all calls to our Mobilising and Communications Centre, MACC, which are a result of Automatic Fire Alarm system activations and will respond when a fire is confirmed or physical signs of fire are suspected.

MF&RS will provide advice, guidance and support to all Responsible Persons whose premises generate calls as a result of an activation of an Automatic Fire Alarm (AFA).

It must be stressed that the Service will continue to maintain a full emergency response to all single private domestic dwellings, such as single households, and all dwellings where the responsibility for safety of the occupiers rests with the individuals who reside there, such as sheltered accommodation, Houses of Multiple Occupancy and sheltered accommodation.

The new approach takes into consideration feedback following a range of communication and consultation events held with stakeholders throughout Merseyside.

Myles Platt, Area Manager for Prevention and Protection at MF&RS, said: “In January this year Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority approved a new risk-based approach to responding to automatic fire alarms.

“Whilst there is no legal requirement for MF&RS to respond to calls originating from automatic systems, we have communicated with and listened to the concerns and points raised by a range of organisations, businesses and Local Authorities and as such MF&RS will phase in the new changes from the end of October. The constructive dialogue we have had raised some real concerns, in particular night time cover and the time organisations would need to make changes, hence the decision to provide a 12 month window for those organisations to make managerial and technical changes in those buildings they have responsibility for.

“Consideration has been given to introducing fines or charges for summonsing the Fire and Rescue Service to false alarms. Whilst having the powers to introduce a charge on a cost recovery basis, the Authority has taken the decision to work with organisations and businesses in the first instance.”

The communication campaign has commenced across Merseyside to inform the public of the changes; letters which have kept stakeholders informed and the leaflets with information for MF&RS staff to hand out during inspections, visits and call-outs.

More information on the change can be found on the below links:

Photo shows a smoke alarm. Photo copyright of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service.

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