Unwanted Fire Signals (UwFS)

When an Automatic Fire Alarm (AFA) actuates for any reason other than a fire condition, this is referred to as a false alarm. The point at which the Fire and Rescue Service is requested and responds to a false alarm is referred to as an Unwanted Fire Signal (UwFS).

Nationally, UwFS are thought to cost businesses and Fire and Rescue Service authorities up to £1 billion a year. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) attends an average of 3,500 UwFS a year. The effects of this are wide ranging:

The Premises

  • Lost production time while the premises are evacuated.
  • Occupant complacency can occur if there are frequent false alarms. Therefore, persons within the building are less likely to react as quickly as they should to a fire alarm, creating more risk to individuals.

Wider Community

  • Environmental damage due to unnecessary appliance movements. Depending on the property type and our pre-determined attendance (established through the level of risk), five appliances could be mobilised to a single UwFS.  Beyond that, in order to maintain our attendance time requirements, other appliances are mobilised to strategic positions around Merseyside so that, in the event of another incident, MFRS are able to attend as quickly as possible.
  • In 2019 there were 3523 blue light attendances that were not required. These will have had a minimum of two appliances attending (sometimes more), meaning that a minimum of 7046 blue light runs in Merseyside could have been avoided.  This puts firefighters, other road users and pedestrians at increased risk.
  • While in attendance at UwFS, MFRS appliances are unavailable to attend genuine incidents.


  • There is a huge cost in resourcing Fire and Rescue Services to cope with the high demand from UwFS while maintaining sufficient availability to attend genuine incidents.
  • Our firefighters spend time in the community proactively reducing the likelihood of fires occurring in both businesses and private dwellings, the effectiveness of which is compromised by UwFS.
  • Operational crews miss valuable training time when attending these types of incidents.
  • A large part of our work is about keeping firefighters safe. To assist in this, operational crews carry out information gathering visits to businesses across Merseyside to help us deal with individual incidents safely and efficiently. UwFS create a barrier to this through creating missed appointments.

Protecting your premises and the people within it from fire is crucial. Alarm systems and alarm receiving centres (ARC) are both key tools in doing so, but in order for them to remain effective, we have included some information on: