NCC: False Alarms

The ABCB has developed a False Alarms YouTube clip in light of the importance of smoke detection and alarms to life safety, and the significant negative impacts false alarms have on costs to owners, building occupant behaviour and fire brigade resourcing. The YouTube clip provides an overview of contributing factors to false alarms within houses and apartment buildings and a number of measures available to reduce these incidences.

The causes of false alarms vary due to the nature and use of a building. For the most part, false alarms can occur due to human behaviour, environmental contaminants, system errors and lack of maintenance. As a result, these false alarms have financial and social impacts on the community.

It is anticipated that the False Alarms YouTube clip will promote greater awareness on the requirements for the connection of smoke detection and alarms to monitoring equipment and options for reducing false alarms.


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Smoke detection systems play a critical role in

protecting the occupants of buildings from fire.

However, an unintended consequence of this level of

protection is the incidence of unwanted or false alarms

that contribute to removal or disconnection of

smoke detection systems, loss of occupant amenity,

financial costs, loss of productivity, complacency

and unnecessary fire brigade attendance.

The incidence of false alarms can be attributed

to three main factors - external factors as a result

of weather, electrical fault or monitoring network fault,

occupants including cooking, steam and system maintenance

and system malfunction including panels,

wiring and detector malfunction.

Five key issues have been identified to minimise the

frequency of false alarms in houses and apartment buildings.

These include 1 - Know your system.

Firstly let's identify what is currently required

by the National Construction Code.

Within a house or apartment, smoke alarms are required

on or near the ceiling in any story- containing bedrooms,

where bedrooms are separated from the living area this

may require more than one, where there is more than

one alarm installed per dwelling, the smoke

detection system must be interconnected and be

installed in apartment building common areas except

where the building is sprinklered and be connected

to activate a building occupant warning system.

2 - Location of detectors.

At the design and installation stage,

consider the installation of detectors in appropriate

locations, keeping in mind that most false alarms

are a result of kitchen fumes or steam from bathrooms.

3 - Smoke reservoirs.

Baffles around kitchen areas can act as a reservoir

which restricts contaminants from reaching the detector.

This can be achieved by installing bulk heads.

Likewise, extending the cupboard doors below the

base of the cupboard is a simple measure that

can assist in delaying activation of the alarm.

This curtain system forms a reservoir underneath

overhead cupboards and retains cooking vapours and fumes.

4 - Ducting.

An externally ducted kitchen range hood disperses cooking

vapours and fumes directly outside the building which

assists in reducing the frequency of false alarms.

It is recommended that exhaust be ducted directly

to an external wall within a false ceiling or bulk head

or where possible, vertically through the roof cavity.

5 - Tips for occupants.

Keeping these tips in mind the incidence of false

alarms within apartment buildings in some cases can

be linked to occupants opening entry doors to expel

smoke upon activation of localised smoke alarms

within the apartment, activating common area building

occupant warning systems and building evacuation.

Many smoke detection systems in apartment buildings are

connected to a fire station dispatch centre,

above the minimum requirements of the NCC.

A fire alarm monitoring system, for example, a smoke

detection system connected to a fire station dispatch

centre is not required for most apartment buildings.

For the most part, false alarms can be attributed

to occupant behaviour.

Understanding how your alarm functions, considering alarm

location and methods to prevent false alarms can

significantly reduce the incidence of false alarms

and increase the safety of occupants.