London Fire Brigade will stop responding to automatic fire alarms

Less than 1% of automatic fire alarms are triggered by genuine fires, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has announced it will soon stop attending automatic fire alarms in most non-residential buildings – unless they are told a fire is definitely happening.

The LFB believes the move – which will affect buildings like office blocks and industrial estates – will save firefighters valuable time, as less than 1% of automatic fire alarms are triggered by genuine fires.

The automatic systems in question are those where the LFB is alerted to a potential fire without anyone having called them.

The new policy will only apply between 7am and 8.30pm. During those hours, the brigade will only attend the affected buildings if a call is also received from a person reporting a fire. Outside those hours, the LFB will still attend all alarms in any building.

The change will be made in October, and will bring the LFB into line with almost every other UK fire service, the brigade said.

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Deputy commissioner Charlie Pugsley said the decision had been taken following a public consultation last year and that the policy would bring “significant benefits” to their service.

“We are here to keep London’s communities safe, and we want to do this as effectively as possible,” he said. “We will always attend an emergency and will continue to attend an alarm at any premises where people sleep – such as homes, hotels and prisons.”

He added that the change “will give firefighters more time to focus on preventative activity, such as visiting our most vulnerable residents and communities, fire safety checks, as well as operational training.”

Other premises exempt from the new policy include hospitals, schools, nurseries, care homes and heritage buildings.

Between April 2023 and March 2024, the brigade attended around 52,000 false alarms generated by automatic fire alarms. The false alerts are most commonly caused by steam or dust becoming trapped inside the detectors, or simply through poor design and maintenance.

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