Fire service will no longer send immediate response to automatic alarms at businesses

Fire service will no longer send immediate response to automatic alarms at businesses

THE fire service in Northern Ireland will no longer respond to businesses’ automatic fire alarms unless signs of fire have been confirmed it was revealed this week.

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) has announced a new False Alarm policy which is aimed at reducing the number of “unnecessary callouts” the service deals with each year.

The new guidelines, which were revealed yesterday and are set to be introduced on February 1, 2024, are in response to the “increase in false alarms which have reached an unsustainable level” the NIFRS stated.

“From 2017 to 2022, 98.7 per cent of automatic fire alarms in Northern Ireland were false alarms, with only a small proportion of the remaining 1.3 per cent being actual fires,” the service confirmed.

In 2022 alone, NIFRS responded to a “record number of false alarms”, which saw them deploy 10,294 fire appliances, yet of the 8,435 calls received that year some 99 per cent, or 8,391 of them, were false alarms.

As of next February, NIFRS will only respond to automatic alarms at commercial premises where a fire has been verified.

The new policy sets specific responsibilities for fire alarm monitoring organisations, installers, maintainers and fire alarm users.

It will not apply to residential settings, such as hospitals, care homes, hotels, and dwelling, but it will affect commercial premises, such as factories, offices and shops.

Following implementation of the new guidelines, the NIFRS response to automatic alarms “will depend on the type of premises and the information provided at the time of an emergency call” they state.

“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,” they add.

“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,” the NIFRS explains.

NIFRS Group Commander Geoff Somerville said of the new policy: “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.”

He added: “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.”