NFPA, IAFC Offer Guide for Reducing Unwanted Alarms

The free PDF document will help fire service organizations deal with this costly problem, which happens millions of times per year.

The National Fire Protection Association and the International Association of Fire Chiefs recently released a free document, the Fire Service Guide to Reducing Unwanted Fire Alarms, to help members of the fire service reduce unwanted fire alarms. It is a 17-page PDF available through NFPA's catalog at www.nfpacatalog.org/redgd.

An outgrowth of a 2011 summit by the two, along with the U.S. Fire Administration, it explains how commercial and residential building fire alarm systems and detection devices operate and how to assess the cause of alarms where no emergency condition is apparent. NFPA and IAFC said it also can assist authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) in developing strategies to manage response to unwanted alarms.

"Unwanted alarms are a drain on fire department resources and pose a significant safety hazard to both responders and the public," said Chief Hank Clemmensen, IAFC president and chairman. "IAFC was pleased to work in collaboration with other fire service organizations, the federal government, and industry to address this issue at the national level, but our work can't have true meaning if we don't provide tools and resources for our fire departments to make a difference in local communities."

An unwanted alarm is defined by NFPA 72®, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, as any alarm that occurs and is not the result of a potentially hazardous condition. According to NFPA, one of its studies found U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 2.1 million false alarms in 2009 -- 979,500 responses due to unintentional activations and 698,000 due to system malfunctions.

"Unintentional fire alarm activations that clearly do not require an emergency response are happening at a rate that challenges the fire service, and this guide was developed to offer guidance to fire departments seeking out information on how they can take action to reduce the amount of unwanted alarms in their community," said Ken Willette, NFPA's division manager of Public Fire Protection and a former fire chief.

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