What are unwanted fire alarm signals?

Automatic fire alarm systems provide an early warning of fire and are one of the most effective ways to keep your business, staff, and customers safe in the event of a fire.

Unfortunately, most signals generated from these systems are not actual fires. They are false alarms often caused by cooking fumes or lack of maintenance. These unwanted fire alarm signals can cause unnecessary risks to the public and fire crews, cause disruption to the business, and may delay a response to a genuine emergency.


What’s changing?

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is changing how we respond to Automatic Fire Alarms.

As of April 1st, 2024 the Service will no longer attend fire alarms in low-risk commercial premises like offices and shops unless backed up by a 999 call to confirm a fire.

This change is being introduced to reduce the number of unwanted fire signals attended by fire crews.

We will still always attend for AFA activations:

•In domestic and residential buildings.

•At all other places where people sleep.

•Identified higher risk premises.

•At any premises where a fire is suspected, on receipt of a 999 call, or by confirmation by other means.


How does this change my fire safety arrangements?

There is a legal duty placed on the Responsible Person under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 to manage their premises to ensure that the appropriate fire precautions are in place, which includes fire safety arrangements and staff training, and also that suitable and sufficient action is taken in the event of a fire or activation of an alarm. Any deviation from the British Standard that has been risk assessed must be documented.

In light of our policy change, you may be required to revisit your fire safety procedures following actuation of an alarm. Further detail can be found here:

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Fire Safety Legislation guidance for those with legal duties

Fire Risk Assessment – 5 step checklist


Will investigating the cause of the AFA activation put us in danger?

We are not asking anyone to put themselves at any unnecessary risk. Staff and occupants should be made aware of how to respond safely to AFA activations in each premises. Ignoring them or assuming the Fire and Rescue Service has been notified could put people at risk. If there are indications that there is a fire – such as a smell of burning or the presence of smoke – then there should be no hesitation in placing a 999 call to report it immediately, and to follow other specific strategies, such as evacuation and assembly points.

The Responsible Person of the building will need to review the current investigation procedures, in line with the current fire risk assessment. This may also need to include staff training.


Do I need to inform my current insurers of your change in response to AFA activations?

You should contact your insurance company to discuss this but please note that Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service will always attend a confirmed fire.


Did you know?

Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022 imposes new duties on businesses and building owners. Main changes include:

•You must have a written risk assessment which records the risks and the fire safety arrangements in full.

•Requirement to cooperate and coordinate between Responsible Persons in multi-occupied buildings.

•In residential buildings with two or more domestic premises, you must now inform residents about the risks of fire within their building, and the safety measures provided to keep them safe.


We have a team of Business Support Advisors who can provide general advice and guidance on your fire safety responsibilities, please email [email protected] and request that one of us contacts you.

For more information on Business Fire Safety Click Here