SFRS – Changes to Automatic Fire Alarm Response

06 July 2023

From 1 July 2023, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will no longer attend automatic fire detection (AFD) system callouts to commercial business and workplace premises.

Scottish Fire and Rescue service

In order to reduce the number of call-outs for false/unwanted fire alarm activations, SFRS will not attend automatic fire detection (AFD) system call-outs to commercial business and workplace premises, such as factories, offices, shops and leisure facilities - unless a fire or signs of a fire have been confirmed.

Duty holders with responsibility for workplace premises will be expected to safely investigate a fire alarm activation before calling 999, as SFRS control room operators will now be asking for confirmation of an actual fire or signs of fire, before sending the nearest fire resource.

This change does not apply to sleeping premises, such as hospitals, care homes, hotels or domestic dwellings who will continue to get an emergency response.

SFRS has advised that signs of fire include visual flame, smell of smoke, smell of burning, or any fire alarm signal - other than a single smoke detector. Other fire alarm signals can include:

  • Heat detector
  • Multi-criteria detector
  • Manual call point
  • Sprinkler head activation
  • Multiple head/zone activation

However, for AFD systems that incorporate any of the above devices, the fire alarm signals received by the alarm receiving centre (ARC) must be capable of distinguishing between these devices and smoke detectors for the signals to be considered as confirmation of fire/signs of fire.

Key considerations/actions for duty holders:

  • Review and update your fire risk assessments to reflect changes.
  • Review Emergency Fire Action Plan - provide guidance/procedures and training for staff and keyholders on how to investigate fires or 'signs of fire' safely and ensure a '999' call is embedded in the plan etc.
  • Liaise with the ARC to ensure they have up-to-date and accurate information and advise them of any changes to the emergency procedures.
  • Ensure there is adequate maintenance and testing of AFD systems in place.
  • Monitor and review performance in light of false activations to identify trends and liaise with the fire alarm maintenance contractor etc. with a view to taking remedial action.
  • Consideration should be given to upgrading/replacing obsolete AFD systems with more modern technology e.g., multi-sensing detectors/means of electronically confirming genuine activations.
  • Liaise with SFRS for further advice/guidance.
  • Liaise with your insurer/broker with regard to changes to your emergency response plans.

The SFRS has provided further advice/guidance on their website – Scottish Fire & Rescue Service: Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals (UFAS)