Wednesday 22nd June 2016

Preventing and Handling False Alarms on Campus – Part 1

Whilst visiting our clients and potential clients in the Higher Education sector we asked them a couple of questions to determine the most common incidents that take place on their campus on a day to day basis, as well as which incident type tends to cause the most problems. The findings are stated below:

Top 10 Common Incident Types:

  • Slip, trip or falls on campus
  • False Alarms
  • Students security concerns
  • Minor accommodation fires
  • Power failure / utility issues
  • Students in difficulty
  • Traffic incidents
  • Theft i.e. bicycle
  • New construction issues
  • Bomb scares

We also asked ‘Which incident type causes them the most problems?’

The answer that came back time and time again was ‘False Alarm Activation’. The average number of false alarm activations sits in the region of 200 per annum which is in excess of 1.5 per day in a typical college year. Our research also suggested the majority of false alarm activations commonly originate from False Fire Alarms.

In a recent survey by Campus Safety Magazine, false fire alarms were stated one of the top four major fire safety challenges universities face. They often occur as a result of burnt food, steam from showers, poor system design, students playing practical jokes or a lack of system maintenance and upkeep.

When these false fire alarms occur as well as being inconvenient, campuses often are at risk of wasting valuable public safety resources.  For every false fire alarm, emergency services are being used unnecessarily which could result in lives being lost during a real fire, as well as, property being destroyed.

Common issues with false alarms occurring on campus:

  • Time and resource wastage
  • Causing an unwanted emergency
  • Costs incurred – i.e. Fines from the Fire Services
  • Disruption to business, and University life
  • Jeopardizes safety if staff and students get used to false alarms
  • Alarms set off in malice devalues the validity of the alarm

As we all know, all alarms have to be taken very seriously and the nuisance of a false alarm is something we can all do without.

Top Tips for Preventing False Alarms on Campus

#1 – Student Inductions
Ensure students are informed about the importance of fire procedures and the use of fire alarms on campus. All students should be aware of the implications and repercussions of false alarm activation.

#2 – Location of detectors
Have the right detectors in each location, and ensure old or obsolete systems are checked and where required, upgraded.

#3 – Smart detectors
When Universities and Colleges are upgrading their systems they should consider the introduction of smart detectors, which feature multiple sensors to detect smoke, heat and carbon monoxide. Some detectors have alarm verification, which can help to cull nuisance alarms from real ones.

#4 – Work closely with local fire brigades
By partnering with local fire brigades, the local fire services provide excellence fire prevention advice, and can help significantly in fire prevention planning. One University that engaged with the fire service saw their false alarms reduce from over 400 a year to just under 100.

#5 – Identify the vulnerable areas
Track where alarms are going off frequently and use CCTV where possible. Fire pull up covers can also act as a deterrent.

#6 – Ensure clear policies are in place
Where someone has clearly set off a fire alarm with malice or as a nuisance, it is suggested that a zero tolerance approach with a clear disciplinary process reduces repeat offenders.

This blog provides tips for preventing false alarms in the first instance, our follow on blog Part 2 will discuss how best to Manage False Alarms on Campus.