Unwanted fire alarm signals (UFAS) - guidance for Best Bar None venues

Unwanted fire alarm signals (UFAS) - guidance for Best Bar None venues

Watch Manager Gary Wood, on secondment to Best Bar None from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, gives tips on how to avoid false alarm calls to the fire brigade.

False alarms - whether accidental or deliberate - can cause disruption to your venue, resulting in loss of time and income for you. They also contribute to negative customer experiences – and reduce staff confidence in your fire alarm system.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is keen to reduce incidences of unwanted fire alarm signals – or UFAS.

Having less false alarms means less “blue light” journeys on our roads - in turn reducing the risk to fire crews and the public. It also helps free up fire crews and appliances to attend genuine emergencies.


Your venue can reduce UFAS incidents by:

  • Reviewing your Fire Safety Risk Assessment (FSRA) and Fire Alarm logbook to determine your figures for unwanted fire alarms – always record any UFAS activations. Persistent UFAS should prompt a review.
  • Create an action plan to reduce the chance of any UFAS occurring by:
  1. Checking detector types and their locations. Would moving them make a difference to activations? Do you have a smoke detector head where a heat or multi-sensor detector be more appropriate?
  2. If your venue uses cosmetic smoke, be aware that this can also activate detector heads.
  3. Ensure that appropriate measures are put in place to reduce detector head activations if any contractors are on site undertaking internal building work e.g. isolate detectors in the immediate vicinity of the work being carried out.
  4. Upgrading automatic fire detection (AFD) systems – AFD systems that are obsolete, replacing with more modern technology e.g. ‘multi-sensor’ detectors.
  5. Can manual fire alarm break glass points be fitted with an inexpensive plastic cover in problem, vulnerable or high traffic areas?
  6. Instigating staff alarms where appropriate (in consultation with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
  7. Keeping AFD systems appropriately maintained.
  8. Consider whether a link to an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) is necessary.
  9. Seeking further guidance and advice from their AFD provider or servicing agent as well as their local SFRS legislative fire safety officer.

Ensuring staff are aware of UFAS and how they can help reduce activations is an effective way of reducing UFAS incidents. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service ‘TAKE5’ and ‘EVADE’ initiatives are a simple and effective way of delivering this information to staff.

Downloading and printing out the TAKE5 and EVADE posters and displaying them in staff areas is an effective way of providing a simple visual reminder to your staff. See download links below. Ensuring your staff have read this information is a simple way to reduce false alarms within your venue.


If you have an Unwanted Fire Alarm Signal activation within your venue

You can assist the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in the following ways:

  • If it is a confirmed false alarm, contact SFRS or your alarm receiving centre by telephone and confirm this. This is what we call a ‘back up call’ and it allows us to allocate the appropriate resources to attend your venue.
  • If your staff have safely investigated the indicated location of the alarm activation and confirmed it is a false alarm, please do not reset your Fire Alarm Panel (FAP). Once all occupants have been evacuated it is permissible to ‘Silence’ the alarm but our attending crews will want to see the location of the activation indicated on any fire alarm panel present – resetting the fire alarm panel can increase time taken for our crews to establish the location of the alarm activation. This will greatly assist them in bringing the incident to a safe and swift conclusion.
  • If your venue is of a large size, over a number of floors or of a complex internal layout you should provide a ‘zone plan’ at or near the FAP which identifies different areas of the venue which match up with the information indicated on the fire alarm panel.
  • Ensure a responsible person meets any attending Scottish Fire and Rescue Service crews with all information available on the location/cause of the alarm activation and where completed, confirmation that all persons within the venue have been evacuated.
  • If in any doubt whatsoever, evacuate the venue and await the arrival of SFRS.


Useful downloads and links

Click the links below to download useful resources

Contact Watch Manager Gary Wood SFRS at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre for further info and guidance reducing UFAS affecting your venue: [email protected]

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