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Working with Fire+Rescue NSW to reduce false Alarms

Reducing unwanted false alarms from Automatic Fire Alarm (AFA) systems

Redmen false alarm reduction program

We work with the Fire+Rescue NSW False Alarm Reduction Unit to reduce the incidence of call-outs through false alarms in Smoke Detection Systems. FRNSW is the organisation formerly known as the NSW Fire Brigade.

Unwanted alarms are when FRNSW attends in response to an alarm where there is no fire or other emergency, i.e. a false alarm. The Fire and Rescue Act 1989 requires FRNSW to attend to all fire alarms.

FRNSW responded to approximately 48,000 Automatic Fire Alarms (AFAs) in the 2019/20 financial year. 97% of these alarms are what we class as being unwanted. Around 37% of all FRNSW responses are to AFAs. Most of the rest are in response to 000 calls site management or employees or from the public.

The problem with unwanted alarms is that:

  1. They create complacency towards genuine alarms.
  2. They also divert resources that would otherwise be available for genuine emergencies.
  3. For alarm owners, they can also be expensive.

As at November 2022, the false alarm charge that FRNSW levies is $1,600. You won’t have to pay for all unwanted alarms. In some circumstances, FRNSW will not charge you if the alarm was beyond the control of the owner or the false alarm does not occur with a certain frequency.

However you may also be looking at a $180 monitoring fee charge from your monitoring service.

How does an Automatic Fire Alarm system work?

Beside the fire panel of sites which use AFAs, is the Alarm Signalling Equipment (ASE). This little red box connects to one of three third party monitoring service providers. FRNSW refers to these as Automatic Fire Alarm Service Providers (AFASPs). In NSW the AFASPs are Chubb Fire Safety Ltd, ADT Fire Monitoring Pty Ltd and Romteck Grid Pty Ltd. The ASE sends through either an alarm or a fault signal to these monitoring services, who then pass on any alarms to FRNSW. Law requires FRNSW to send out a truck to the place of the emergency.

The AFASP reports any fault signal to the site for rectification.

The main causes of false alarms are:

  • poor ventilation,
  • burnt toast and other cooking fumes,
  • steam,
  • aerosol sprays such as deodorants, insecticides and hair sprays,
  • insect infestation,
  • cigarettes and candles,
  • dust,
  • and poorly maintained systems.

When a Fire+Rescue unit arrives at the site, and the call was a false alarm, the crew will issue a billable code.

FRNSW permits one free false alarm call out every 60 days, with multiple allowable on the same day, as this is considered a single event.

False Alarm Reduction Lets Firefighters Take On Real Fire
Unwanted fire alarms waste fire-fighters time
Fire Rescue NSW firefighters

How we help reduce your false alarms

You can lodge a claim for a waiver of your false alarm callout charges. You do this through your AFASP.

However, you will require supporting documentation. This is where we come in. We are fire protection professionals with expert experience in  mitigating false alarms and can help you through the process. We can provide you with proof that demonstrates your commitment to reducing false alarms. This can be copies of invoices or work documents. For example, the replacement of a smoke detector with a thermal detector.

Step 1:  Fire alarm call-out history

With your permission, we retrieve your call-out history from FRNSW.  We then analyse the causes of past false alarms. This allows us to investigate possible patterns, and causes that we can eliminate.

Step 2: False alarm recommendations

We prepare a recommendation report outlining measures designed to decrease the incidence of false alarms at your premises.  Sometimes it may entail replacement or relocation of detector heads.  On other occasions it may need a different type of detector or simply a change in on-site policies. For example, instructions to tradesmen re dust-creating tasks.

Step 3: False alarm callout fee waiver assistance

Once we complete the upgrades and implemented new policies, we will assist you to lodge a waiver claim with FRNSW for refund or credit of past false alarm call-out charges where it can be demonstrated that conscientious measures have been implemented to reduce the incidence of false alarms. You use your AFASP to actually lodge the request. 

Here are three examples of fire alarm charge waiver requests we did:

Charlestown Fire Alarm Waiver

Fire Alarm Waiver 1

Fire Alarm Waiver 2

With the False-Alarm call-out charges increasing at times, it could be a good time to call us in. Contact our Sydney or Newcastle / Central Coast offices today.

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