London Fire Brigade to introduce new policy to reduce calls to false alarms

Starting from October 2024, LFB will stop attending automatic fire alarms in most non-residential buildings, such as office blocks or industrial estates, during daytime hours – unless a call is also received from a person reporting a fire. Between April 2023 and March 2024, LFB attended around 52,000 false alarms generated by automatic fire alarms. The policy is in line with almost all other UK fire and rescue services and is specifically designed to utilise firefighters time more effectively to help keep communities safe.

The Brigade will continue to always respond to all automatic fire alarms in residential buildings and in schools, nurseries, hospitals, care homes, heritage sites, other exempt premises* and during the night in all buildings. The policy will only apply between the hours of 7am and 8.30pm. Outside of these hours, the Brigade will attend all automatic fire alarms in any building.

Ahead of the roll-out, the Brigade will be working closely with stakeholders, businesses, community groups and Londoners to ensure they understand what these changes mean for them, what they need to do to prepare and how to ensure they can keep their buildings and the people they are responsible for safe.

Why are LFB implementing this policy? 

The changes are being introduced in London following a wide-ranging consultation held in 2023 with members of the public, businesses, partners, firefighters, and other Brigade staff. Consultation responses were considered and analysed, and as a result LFB changed its approach in some areas, including by expanding the list of exempt premises.

Less than 1% of automatic fire alarms signal genuine fires - the remaining 99 per cent are false alarms, placing an unnecessary burden on the Brigade’s resources. Almost all other UK fire and rescue services have introduced policies that aim to reduce attendance at false alarms and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services support efforts that reduce false alarm attendances. The time spent attending these false alarms will be used instead to improve the availability of operational training time for firefighters, as well as freeing up more time to deliver fire prevention and fire safety in local communities.

Why do false alarms occur? 

There are several reasons. Common causes include poor alarm design or maintenance, dust inside detectors, or steam. It is imperative that automatic alarm systems are correctly managed and maintained to minimise false alarms, as well as ensuring that staff in businesses are suitably trained to understand their responsibilities under fire safety law. Recurring false alarms can often be resolved quickly and easily. The Brigade is urging businesses who experience recurring false alarms to investigate each occurrence to find the cause, including contacting the alarm system company.

Deputy Commissioner Charlie Pugsley said, "Following a consultation with key stakeholders, it is clear that support for the new policy recognises the significant benefits these changes will have on our service for Londoners. We are here to keep London’s communities safe, and we want to do this as effectively as possible. We will always attend an emergency and will continue to attend an alarm at any premises where people sleep – such as homes, hotels, and prisons. As outlined in our Community Risk Management Plan, reducing our attendance at false alarms will give firefighters more time to focus on preventative activity, such as visiting our most vulnerable residents and communities, fire safety checks, as well as operational training."

*Full list of exempt premises

  • Private dwellings/houses
  • Flats (including high-rises)
  • Flats above non-residential premises if flat is source of alarm
  • Houses of Multiple Occupation
  • Residential care homes/nursing homes/hospices
  • Children’s homes
  • Specialised housing premises i.e. sheltered housing, extra care sheltered housing, supported living
  • Residential boarding schools
  • Houseboats
  • Hotels, motels, B&Bs, and other guest accommodation
  • Hostels, including youth, homeless and rehabilitation premises
  • Hospitals
  • Schools/nurseries
  • Prisons/young offenders’ institutions
  • High risk sites storing volumes of dangerous substances
  • Heritage buildings
  • Buildings of substantial public significance identified as exempt by LFB
  • Other substantial buildings of public significance

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