The cost, risk to lives and drain on firefighting resources led the London Fire Brigade (LFB) to announce a stringent new rule which came into effect last year. Organisations are now being fined if they have more than nine false alarm call-outs in a year. The LFB states that despite a 7.3% drop in the number of call-outs after the introduction of the charge, it is still responding to one every fifteen minutes on average.
Hospitals are among the most prolific offenders with some being visited several times every week by the LFB. The NHS now faces a six figure bill in London for 2014 due to unwanted alarm alerts automatically triggering calls to the emergency services. Most of the call-outs were caused by badly maintained systems, or burnt toast, steam and dust.
Tony O’Brien, head of sales for Siemens Building Technologies Solution and Service Portfolio explains: “These false call outs not only impact the NHS financially, but are a public safety issue. When alarms go off repeatedly, there is a tendency for people to ignore them. In the case of a real fire, complacency could put lives at risk.
“Fire detection systems simply should not cause unwanted alarms; if an organisation suffers from excessive false alarms, the root cause is either poor technology, or poor service and maintenance support. Hospitals have the added pressure and responsibility to protect sick, infirm and immobile patients when they are at their most vulnerable.
“A false alarm is referred to as an ‘unwanted fire signal’ as soon as the fire service is summoned. There is a need to properly educate hospital building and facilities managers about the benefits of the right technology to minimise unwanted alarms and how to properly maintain their fire alarm systems.”
“We work with hospitals, as we do with other organisations, to choose and apply the correct fire detectors for the location and application; this alone reduces the chances of an unwanted alarm from the detector itself. It is the responsibility of fire alarm companies to not only install and maintain the technology but also to advise on best use and minimisation of potential unwanted fire signals.”
Tony further explains: “The Siemens unique Sinteso™ fire detection system features advanced intelligence which delivers the highest level of protection against all types of fire hazards. Each detector is configured with a unique set of parameters for each location, enabling the system to differentiate between false fire phenomena, such as steam or cooking fumes, and a real indicator of fire.
“Its built-in intelligence means it can offer fast identification and early warning of fire, as well as eliminate potential unwanted alarms due to environmental influences such as toasters, poor housekeeping, humidity and temperature change. The Sinteso system is constantly alert, evaluating each situation minute by minute and taking decisions on complex criteria to ensure a safe environment.
“Advanced Signal Analysis (ASAtechnology™) is integrated in the detector itself, making each device highly intelligent and 100% reliable. Innovative detection algorithms simultaneously convert signals such as smoke density and temperature into mathematical gradients and constantly evaluate according to present values. Carbon monoxide detection is combined with this unique technology providing optical, thermal and electrochemical CO sensors, which offer extremely fast detection as they continually monitor all three fire criteria – smoke, heat and carbon monoxide.”
Tony concludes: “Efficient fire detection systems save lives, protect organisations and reputations. In addition, they save the building and in the case of a hospital this could run into billions of pounds and reduce the risk of having to make a large insurance claim. There is also a danger that repeated false alarms could contribute to the downgrade of the fire service response. Furthermore, excessive unwanted fire signals can lead to complacency, putting lives at risk if and when there is a real fire. Today’s technology resolves this issue and it is false economy to install low cost systems that put organisations at risk.”