Preventing unwanted alarms

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Preventing unwanted alarms

Every year we attend over 20,000 false-alarm calls. In some places, more than 50% of callouts are unwanted alarms.

Most of these calls are generated by automatic fire alarm systems. You should take steps to minimise these types of unwanted alarms.

The most common source of unwanted alarm activations are:

  • Lack of appropriate ventilation
  • Working environment
  • Alarm faults
  • Building contractors
  • Malicious activity

Why you should prevent unwanted alarms

Unwanted alarms can make building occupants less likely to react to genuine alarms and contribute to delays in fire evacuation.

This is because excessive unwanted alarms promote ‘cry wolf syndrome’. People who experience regular unwanted alarms are likely to ignore a real fire alarm as just another unwanted alarm.

Unwanted alarms also come with a cost.

  • They cost Fire and Emergency New Zealand, as we have to dedicate resources to responding to these alarms.
  • They cost the community, by impacting our ability to respond to genuine emergencies.

Building design

A badly designed building can often create unwanted alarms, so reducing the likelihood of unwanted alarms starts at the building design stage.

The building designer should consider how the building will be used. They should think about the daily behaviour of occupants, particularly in apartment buildings, and design accordingly.

For example, providing inadequate ventilation or extraction systems in kitchen areas will often lead to unwanted alarms.

You can find more information about building and designing for fire safety on these pages:

  • Rules and regulations
  • Support and services
  • Owner responsibilities

Choosing a fire alarm system

You should choose a fire alarm system that specifically fits the needs of the building.

Avoid putting smoke detection in places like kitchens, bathrooms or places with a lot of dust. There are other types of detectors that are more suitable to these environments.

Understanding your alarm system

Many unwanted alarms are caused because building owners or occupants don't understand their alarm system. If you're not sure how your fire alarm system works, speak to your fire alarm agent.

Building contractors

Third party contractors cause many unwanted alarms. Building owners, building managers and occupants should warn contractors about alarm systems and advise them how to prevent unwanted alarms.

If a contractor (or any other person) causes a unwanted alarm in your building, you can forward any unwanted alarm charges to that contractor.

Fire alarm servicing companies

Contact the servicing agent for your fire alarm system for advice about reducing unwanted alarms. Insist the servicing company be proactive in providing advice to reduce unwanted alarms.

A short-term investment in your fire alarm system can save in the long term, as the associated costs of unwanted alarms can be expensive.