False fire alarm penalties

False fire alarm charge increases

Fire alarms in Strata managed properties: what you need to know

In 2015, 97% of the Automatic Fire Alarms (AFA) that Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) responded to were due to false alarms. Crucial resources should be available for genuine emergencies. Repeated false fire alarms may reduce the likelihood that a real alarm will be treated in a timely manner, potentially leading to injury or loss of life.

On 1 December 2016 FRNSW increased the false alarm charge from $1,250 to $1,600. It is intended that the increase in the charge should result in better management of AFA systems. Poorly maintained AFA systems are the primary cause of false alarms.

The main causes of false fire alarms

According to FRNSW, AFAs are most often triggered by the following avoidable factors:

  • poor ventilation
  • burnt toast
  • cooking fumes
  • steam
  • aerosol sprays
  • cigarettes and candles
  • tradespeople and cleaners
  • dust
  • dirty smoke detectors
  • damage to ‘break glass alarms’ or ‘manual call points’
  • system malfunction
  • poorly-maintained systems
  • insufficient maintenance frequency in harsh environments
  • insect infestation.
How to avoid false alarms

It’s in everyone’s interest to reduce the incidence of false fire alarms.

  • Know the location of all the smoke detectors in your home or office.
  • Make every effort to avoid activating a false fire alarm:
  • Open vents and windows and switch on fans before cooking or showering.
  • Do not leave any cooking unattended.
  • Do not smoke or use aerosols near smoke detectors.
Building owners and managers:
  • Manage and maintain your AFA system. The primary cause of false alarms is poorly maintained systems.
  • Educate your staff and visitors so they understand your building is protected by an AFA system.
  • Have regulated workplace processes in place for workers – they can inadvertently set of a fire alarm by creating dust, cutting wires, spraying and steam cleaning.

Ensure workers on-site register with the building owner or manager, understand workplace processes, ensure appropriate isolation of AFA systems and act responsibly.

Not all false fire alarms will be chargeable. False fire alarms will not be charged if:

  • the cause was beyond the control of the owner, for example as a result of storms or natural disasters.
  • there is only one false alarm within a 60-day period (subsequent false alarms in the 60-day period will be charged).
  • there are repeat false alarms in a 24-hour period (only the first alarm will be charged).
Where to go for further information:

Full details of the information above can be found on the FRNSW website.

FRNSW have also produced a brochure on ways to reduce unwanted fire alarm instances. You can download a free copy of Unwanted Alarms here.

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