Unwanted alarm activations can occur for a variety of reasons due to everyday occupant activities. These may be caused by:

  • poor alarm system maintenance
  • fumes and vapours from cooking
  • smoke from toasters, ovens and stoves
  • steam from showers, hot water systems and kettles - particularly in building layouts where there is poor ventilation
  • cigarettes, lighters, matches, candles or incense
  • aerosol hair spray or insect spray.

Modern automatic fire alarm systems generally have the ‘intelligence’ to alleviate many unwanted alarms, older systems do not.

It is important to identify what the real causes of the alarm activating are before adopting any ‘quick fix’ solution.

Questions to ask before adopting any solution or strategy include:

  • Is the air extraction appropriate for the cooking facilities?
  • Is the air current or ventilation direction managed?
  • Does the ventilation system draw smoke from the toaster past the smoke detector?
  • Does the range hood discharge to open air?
  • Is there adequate make-up air supply?
  • What happens to airflow with the opening of a window or a door?
  • Does the air conditioning and/or kitchen exhaust discharge directly on to detectors?
  • Are smoke detectors too close to bathroom, steam or kitchen outlets?
  • Are stove and toast utilities in the correct location?
  • Could relocating the kettle to a position further from the detector help?
  • Will fitting self-closing door mechanisms on bathroom doors help?

Solutions include:

  • Reviewing work practices such as the deodorising of rooms and the control of insects by aerosol sprays.
  • Relocating mirrors from areas beneath detectors to reduce activations due to hair sprays and dryers.
  • Ensuring proper multi-language signage is located throughout the premises warning occupants that sensitive fire detection equipment has been installed for their safety, and that these systems can be inadvertently activated by contaminants such as smoking, steam, cooking, aerosols, insects and hairdryers etc.
  • Hardwiring cooking appliances so that they cannot operate outside the scope of the kitchen exhaust hood (switching the toaster on also turns on the exhaust hood).
  • Turn the toaster control knob down and fix into position.
  • Removing cooking facilities (Hotels)
  • Installing a bulkhead between the kitchen and the location of the detectors (distance between a detector and a bulkhead must be in accordance with Australian Standards). Note: Ventilation control is preferred to the provision of bulkheads since bulkheads may also delay the detection of a real fire.

For further discussion or advice on these issues, please contact the Community Safety and Resilience Department.

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