Unwanted fire signals

Automatic fire alarms help to keep premises and their occupant’s safe by providing an early warning of a possible fire and enabling people inside the building to evacuate. However, the vast majority of  signals from automatic fire alarms are not actual fires. Fire alarm and detection systems react as a result of either an increase in heat or the presence of smoke. Unfortunately, they also react to things such as steam, cigarette smoke, aerosol sprays and light smoke from cooking fumes.

When a fire alarm goes off, as a result of anything other than a real fire, this is considered to be an unwanted fire signal.

Change in responding to false alarms

Businesses across Cleveland received a letter from Cleveland Fire Brigade outlining our change of policy regarding attending unwanted fire signals which came in to force Monday 2nd October 2017.

Please click here to view a copy of this letter.

The letter details that businesses may be exempt from the changes if there are exceptional circumstances. Any request for an exemption due to significant risk must be made by email to FireEngineeringHelpdesk@clevelandfire.gov.uk.


What are the consequences of unwanted fire signals?

  • It ties up fire engines and personnel who could be attending real emergencies or carrying out vital training;
  • It can cause disruption to businesses effecting efficiency, profitability and services;
  • Frequent false alarms cause staff to become complacent, less willing to act quickly when hearing alarms;
  • Repeated calls may result in formal action being taken by Cleveland Fire Authority;

How to avoid

To help avoid Unwanted Fire Signals, please ensure that:

  • The fire risk assessment for your premises is up to date and reflects the conditions in your premises.
  • Your fire alarm and detection system has been properly designed, installed, and commissioned and that it is properly managed and maintained.
  • You have people designated to take responsibility for the management and maintenance of your fire alarm system.
  • In the event of your fire alarm operating, the premises are evacuated, where this forms part of the fire strategy for your premises.
  • Your fire alarm procedures include the designation of specific staff to check whether or not there are any signs of a fire, when the fire alarm sounds.
  • If any signs of fire are found, ensure that there is a designated member of staff to call the Brigade using the 999/112 system.
  • Any false alarms are properly recorded in the fire alarm log book, including remedial actions taken to prevent a recurrence.

Useful documents

Further guidance is available, please click on one of the following headings for the necessary information: