Devon And Somerset Fire And Rescue Service Logo
Commercial Services



Automatic fire alarms

Unfortunately, we respond to thousands of unwanted / false alarms each year.

We are committed to reducing the number of unwanted fire engine mobilisations. False alarms disrupt your organisation and our service. An emergency response to an unwanted/false alarm poses a risk to the community, creates environmental pollution and prevents us from being available for real fires and rescues.

Fire alarm maintenance, false alarm reduction and procedures to identify false alarms are the responsibility of the premises 'responsible person'. It is estimated in some establishments over 70% of false alarms are resolvable alarms and due to human action.

What is an unwanted fire signal / actuation

The Fire Industry Association defines an unwanted fire signal as "Any fire alarm signal other than a genuine fire or test signal".

The current version of BS 5839: also defines a false alarm as a fire signal resulting from a cause(s) other than a fire, and further sub-divides these into four categories:

• Unwanted alarms,
• Equipment false alarms,
• Malicious false alarms,
• False alarms with good intent.

We consider a fire detection and warning system/equipment as a 'poor performing premises' if there have been:

• two or more unwanted actuations in any period of 4 weeks,
• three or more unwanted actuations in any period of 26 weeks,

False alarm clarification policy

National policy and guidance requires all premises with an automatic fire alarm system to have call filtering at the premises to ensure false alarms are identified prior to the Fire Service being called. Many system actuations can easily be identified as false alarms by people at the premises and so do not require a call to us.

Dependent upon a suitable risk assessment of the premises, false alarm clarification prior to calling the Fire Service should be implemented. This should also be incorporated into your fire training programme.

Common causes of false alarms

• Cooking fumes
• Steam (showers or industrial processes)
• Aerosol sprays
• Dust and thrips/insects in detectors
• Occupants or staff smoking
• Controlled processes that produce smoke and fumes
• Water ingress
• Contractors/Workmen activities including hot works
• Mechanical damage/disruption
• Testing or maintenance of fire alarm systems without prior warning to the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC)


False alarm reduction guidance

Read our False Alarm Reduction Guidance (PDF) document for ideas to reduce false/ unwanted alarms. Please note - any actions should be subject to the premises Risk Assessment.

Please see the link to the National Chief Fire Officers Association (NFCC) Guide for the Reduction of False Alarms and Unwanted Fire Signals (PDF),

If your alarm is remotely monitored please see the link to the National Chief Fire Officers Association (NFCC) Best Practice Guide for summoning a fire response via Alarm Monitoring Organisations (PDF).


Our response to false alarms

We do not routinely attend alarm actuation calls in the building types listed below, unless the building's occupants can confirm that there signs of a fire. This applies between the hours of 8am to 6pm from Monday to Friday unless a prior risk assessment indicated that other arrangements were necessary.

These property types are considered to be low risk. They have resources to enable the property to act on their own procedures and fire risk assessment and can conduct a safe investigation of the building and confirm an Unwanted Fire Signal (UFS).

• Retail
• Offices and call centres
• Industrial manufacturing
• Education
• Entertainment and culture
• Warehouses and bulk storage
• Public administration
• Food and drink
• Sporting venues
• Vehicle repair
• Religious
• Transport buildings


  • for the purpose of non-attendance these are premises which do not contain any sleeping risk.
  • We have discretion to change our attendance subject to information gained, type of property and type of call. i.e. library, historical or listed building.
  • No adverse changes have been made to the way that fire safety advice and support is provided to any organisation affected by our non-attendance approach.
  • We do challenge calls and will request that Alarm Monitoring Companies seek confirmation from their customers that there is a fire before they call us to attend.


Our attendance policy in more detail

Confirmed False Alarm - No appliance mobilisation


Confirmed Fire - Fire attendance appropriate to the occupancy risk

Doubts as to cause of alarm activating

• Doubts as to Activation Cause - Standard alarm actuation attendance - 1 appliance between the hours of 6pm to 8am
• Doubts as to Activation Cause - Risk Assessed attendance
• Doubts as to Activation Cause - Confirmed Domestic/Residential Premises - Standard alarm actuation attendance - 1 appliance

Don't call the Fire and Rescue Service if an actuation is a confirmed false alarm, if there are any doubts or signs of fire then call us immediately.

If after mobilisation, the premises confirm the call is a false alarm, we can and will stand down the resources attending - by a follow up call on the 999 system, however we have the discretion to continue with the mobilisation.

If there is any doubt about the identity or responsibility status of the caller, or the quality of the required information, then an attendance will be made. Likewise if there is any doubt about the information received from someone calling us back to stand our response down, the default position is to allow the Service deployment that has been mobilised to attend.

At all times, if the caller states confirmation or the signs of a fire, a fire attendance (appropriate to the occupancy risk) will be mobilised. If this results in Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue responding to an 'unwanted fire signal' then we will work with the business/property concerned to identify the cause, and advise on steps to take to prevent further unwanted activations.

Our policy is based on the national guidance. We encourage proactive management to reduce and minimise false alarms.

The Localism Act 2011 introduced the power to charge for repeated attendance at non-domestic premises where there is a persistent problem with false reports made as a direct or indirect result of warning equipment under common control having malfunctioned or be inappropriately positioned or installed. Devon and Somerset Fire Authority has resolved to exercise this power when necessary in relation to persistent unwanted fire alarm actuation incident attendances.


All our safety information can be made available in other languages. Please contact 0800 050 2999 to request a copy.

Useful and informative article? Please share it!

PrivacyNoticesMindful EmployerFire Pride and AlliesEmployers Network For Equality and Inclusion Member ENEI logoBQF Member Logo The disability confident committed logo