A new member of the group asked about Verified Fire Alarms

I would really like to know what the group feel regarding, what is the current situation regarding verified Fire alarm signal, many brigades getting very strict now and one of the leading UK retailers that I work with Treat Fire very serious but they are getting frustrated with brigades coming down hard and staining they area looking to withdraw first line response, any ideas and advice would be much appreciated

A UK Security Industry Expert offered the following advice:

UK Fire services can now charge for false alarms, and it can be back dated to last October. I am not sure any have this in place yet, but it will come, they have been pressing for a change in legislation for some time....there was no concerted objection by our industry (as far as I can see). I believe that the changes to legislation covering this also make clauses in contracts covering recharging invalid. Therefore if the false alarm is down to equipment or installer you would be liable for the bill; this makes it pretty much all down to the installer as almost all other calls will be classed as "good reason". Clever because it means health authorities will not necessarily end up with the bill which was a potential political nightmare - but not good for you.

Back in the 80's and 90's the fire services charged about £500 per call, its likely to be more now. I would suggest a very pro-active approach to FAM (False Alarm Management), make sure your engineering department is told of every FAA (False Alarm Activation) and a warning system built in to your ARC software. Just before the Fire Services were stopped from making the charge changes were being discussed to FAM techniques, from what I have seen recently this work appears to have been largely forgotten about.

A Control Room Operator added:

Make the call to the fire brigade the last call rather than the first call. Give the premises or keyholder the opportunity to investigate, decline or require fire brigade attendance. Why would you want automatic fire brigade attendance during office hours when 99% of employees have a mobile capable of dialling 999 in the unlikely event of an actual fire. Tailor the response to the actual risk.

The industry expert summarised the subject:

The current CFOA recommendations say that the ARC should call the site, waiting 30 seconds after the event has been received for someone to answer the call and verify if its false or not. This is, frankly, rubbish. It makes some assumptions that have been fed by the industry....like "we always deal with all events immediately".

We all know different don't we?...... its unlikely that the ARC will handle the alarm immediately the automated call is received (actual trigger tests I completed for a high street retailer have shown that even the best ARC can take a while to actually get around to dealing with the event depending on its loading). The shortest time we waited was 24 seconds and the longest over 320 seconds or not at all (as occurred once)...... - average was 50 seconds plus, and we were waiting for the call so we answered straight away! The Fire Brigade were called to two tests, no call being received.

In normal circumstances because the ARC is calling the "responsible person" that person has to break off from investigating the cause and answer the as one member of staff replied when prompted. Think about it! All of this and other issues creates a late call for the Fire Service when there is an actual call. What was proposed way back in 1994 is that the ARC software (ours does and I know one other than does) gets the automated message, then waits 60 seconds for an incoming call, (using CLI) from a known responsible person or site, (the call does not have to be answered (but can be) the simple fact that a call is in the queue is enough) - this call "holds/parks" the alarm until the caller speaks to an operator.

If after 60 seconds there is no such call it was proposed that the alarm was sent automatically to the Fire Service using an automated messaging service, the protocol was even drafted. No need for operator interaction in this case. In this way the maximum delay time would be 60 seconds in all circumstances and way shorter if there was an actual fire, as, hopefully, the responsible person has investigated and called 999(911/112) and not been dragged back to answer a call.

The onus was on the responsible person to call the ARC to say that they were investigating - this could be by mobile or from an extension near the activating detector - no time wasted by the ARC trying to contact/find the responsible person. If while investigating the person found fire they simply hung up the call to the ARC and dialled 999, and at the same time the FS would be sent a message via the ARC. False alarm charges (if any) then became the responsibility of the site as they should maintain an on duty responsible person; which is what the FS want in the first instance. The system could also be tied into the open and close messaging from intruder alarms so the delay was bypassed out of hours. It was totally flexible.

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