Fire Rescue Victoria

A false alarm occurs when FRV attends an incident to find there is no emergency and no need for fire fighting or other expertise.

It is important to reduce preventable false alarms as they impact on emergency service delivery and business resources through:

  • Unwanted and unnecessary calls increasing the risk of accident and injury to firefighters and the general public as firefighters will treat every incident as an emergency.
  • Response times to real emergencies can be delayed through attendance at false alarms.
  • Congestion to the Triple Zero (000) emergency call service.
  • Complacency to alarms when there is a real emergency.

Businesses can be charged for false alarms when there is no reasonable excuse.

Inefficient alarms can result in additional maintenance costs.

Disruption to business activities can lead to a loss of productivity.

As a minimum requirement, an automatic fire alarm system should be designed, installed and maintained in accordance with the requirements of the relevant Australian Standards.

In order to avoid being charged for false alarms businesses need to be vigilant with assessment, maintenance, and management of alarm systems.

Please note that minimum requirements are not necessarily sufficient to reduce preventable false alarms and additional measures and maintenance are often required.

For enquiries regarding false alarms please contact: alarmassessmentenquiries@frv.vic.gov.au

  • Owners and their representatives must ensure that their fire alarm system and the entire site it protects is managed effectively to provide fire safety and to reduce preventable false alarms.

    In order to avoid being charged for false alarms, businesses need to be vigilant with the assessment, maintenance, and management of the building and fire alarm system.

    In developing management systems, the challenge is to foresee any possible problems and implement prevention strategies before a false alarm occurs.

    The management of your site may include the following:

    Appointment of a responsible person

    Does your building or site have an appointed person responsible to oversee the management of the fire alarm system?

    Appointing someone to manage the fire alarm system has proved to assist in reducing preventable false alarms. Personnel that have been appointed to this role include:

    • site engineers
    • building managers
    • fire wardens

    They should be motivated, authoritative, and receive training in all aspects of your fire alarm system and monitoring equipment.

    Procedures for visitors including sub-contractors

    Trade activities can regularly generate dust, heat and fumes which may activate smoke detectors. It may be necessary for specific zones or circuits to be isolated prior to work commencing. Proper management of isolations should be a priority during works.

    When managing an isolated alarm always use minimum isolation methods. Depending on the length and purpose, an isolation may amount to a disconnection in which case a building permit is required.

    Procedures can be implemented to protect your fire alarm system from generating these types of preventable false alarms.

    Education and training of personnel

    For personnel responsible for the fire alarm system training should include:

    • correct testing procedures.
    • correct isolation procedures.
    • liaison with fire maintenance company.

    For all personnel and occupants of the site, education should include:

    • overview of the fire alarm system, including detector types and positions.
    • information on which activities and conditions are likely to activate the fire alarm system.
    • information on policies and procedures that may affect the fire alarm system.

    False alarm prevention should form part of all new personnel orientation programs.

  • Modern day fire alarm systems are complex in design, and need to be maintained by a reputable fire maintenance company that has expertise in this field.

    As a minimum requirement, an automatic fire alarm system should be designed, installed and maintained in accordance with the requirements of the relevant Australian Standards.

    Australian Standards can be purchased online via https://www.standards.org.au

    Additional maintenance is often necessary to reduce preventable false alarms.

    A hard-copy maintenance log book must be kept on site and be available to the fire services 24 hours a day.

  • Modern day fire alarm systems are complex in design, and need to be maintained by a reputable fire maintenance company that has expertise in this field.

    It is important to understand if your fire alarm system suits your needs. Be proactive don’t wait for a false alarm to occur before you assess your site.

    As a minimum requirement, an automatic fire alarm system should be designed, installed and maintained in accordance with the requirements of the relevant Australian Standards however, additional maintenance is often necessary to reduce preventable false alarms.

    Factors to consider include:

    • detector types (e.g. smoke, thermal) should be chosen to suit building purpose and environmental conditions.
    • the calibration or sensitivity of the detectors.
    • the position of detectors.

    Unexplained false alarms

    If your fire alarm system generates faults that cannot be explained then it may be worth investigating the application of new technologies including analogue addressable systems. Your fire maintenance company should be your first port of call.

    Note: If you wish to modify any part of your fire alarm system, all changes may also need to be approved by a registered building surveyor. 

  • Building design is frequently found to be the cause of preventable false alarm activations.

    This usually occurs when a fire alarm system is installed in the building with little or no planning for the activities of the occupants.

    It is better to address potential fire alarm problems before the building is commissioned.

    Suggested building design strategies for reducing preventable false alarms:

    • At planning stage research what type of system suits your needs. Some options for smoke detectors include aspirated, laser point, beam, filtered point, video and photo optical. The latter option may be attractive as it is often less expensive to install, however in the long term choosing a system that suits your workplace and does not generate false alarms may be the most cost effective.
    • At planning stage discuss tailoring the system design to the occupants needs instead of accepting a maximum coverage design (often chosen due to its ease of complying with all Standards).
    • Consider conducting a risk assessment of potential false alarm problems with your fire maintenance company prior to occupancy.
    • For renovations of existing buildings, consult with the designer or building contractor and make changes to the existing fire alarm system if necessary.
    • Check to see if the floor plan layout has changed since the fire alarm system was originally installed.
    • Consider upgrading your fire alarm system, including alarm panels to optimum standards.
    • Upgrade buildings where poor internal and external plumbing design allows water penetration.
    • Upgrade building design and layout where there is inadequate airflow management.
    • Ensure that all appropriate signage is in place before the building is commissioned, e.g. height restriction signs for car-parks, no smoking signs and false alarm prevention notices.

  • It is an offence in Victoria to damage or interfere with a fire indicator panel (FIP) or other apparatus that transmits the alarm signal to the fire services without reasonable excuse.

    The offence provisions are:

    • Resetting a FIP without a reasonable excuse; and
    • Damaging or interfering with an FIP or other apparatus without a reasonable excuse – this includes isolating, disabling, disconnecting or modifying your monitored automatic alarm system.

    Penalty: 60 penalty units

    The resetting of the fire alarm system will not prevent the FRV from responding to the call. It may also influence any decision on charges for false alarms, and will certainly result in increased cost should the charge proceed as the attending fire fighters will need additional time to establish the premises are not at risk from fire.

    Enquiries should be sent to alarmisolations@frv.vic.gov.au

  • FRV charges for attendance at preventable false alarms to encourage building owners or managers to be continually proactive in managing fire alarm systems.

    FRV can charge for false alarms at the rate of $578 per truck per 15 minutes under the Act.

    FRV may, by written notice, require the owner, occupier or owners corporation of the premises to submit details of the false alarm circumstances.

    Enquiries should be sent to alarmaccounts@frv.vic.gov.au

    Submissions

    The submission is an important part of the FRV process in determining whether or not a charge will be applied to a false alarm call. This provides an opportunity for building managers to outline all proactive measures taken to reduce false alarms. FRV will not charge where there is a reasonable excuse provided and if the alarm was not preventable or foreseeable.

    Submissions will only be accepted by the party nominated in the FRV notification letter and must be made within 21days of the notification date.

  • Owners and managers of automatic fire alarm systems are required to keep FRV up to date with their details. This ensures we have up to date information if there is a need to contact the owner/occupier of a building, such instances are usually to disseminate proactive information or to investigate incidents of false alarms of fire.

    Updates should be sent to clientinvestigation@frv.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 21 April 2021

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