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NFPA releases false alarm resource

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

August 13, 2012  By  Paul Grossinger

Fire departments are often faced with challenges presented by unwanted alarms as they strive to allocate limited resources to fulfill their core mission of protecting lives and property and deal with these types of notifications which do not require emergency services. An unwanted alarm is defined by NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, as any alarm that occurs that is not the result of a potentially hazardous condition. A recent NFPA study found that in 2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 2.1 million false alarms, which included 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.

This new guide offers fire service personnel basic knowledge on how fire alarm systems and detection devices operate and how to assess the cause of alarms where no emergency condition is apparent. The guide can assist authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ’s) in developing strategies to manage response to unwanted alarms through practices reflective of risk assessment, resources management, and current code recommendations. It addresses commercial and residential building fire alarm systems, as well as single-family dwellings and single- or multiple-station smoke alarms within dwelling units.

“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 of the board. “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.”


This guide is the outcome of a summit that addressed the challenges of unwanted fire alarms that was hosted by NFPA, IAFC and the United States Fire Administration in 2011. NFPA and IAFC developed this document in collaboration.

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