Our response to Automatic Fire Alarms

Automatic fire alarms (AFAs) help to keep building occupants safe by providing early warning in the event of fire.

However, they can also be the cause of false alarms. This means that fire crews are not available to attend genuine emergencies where people’s lives may be at risk, or to carry out training or community safety work to help prevent fires from happening in the first place.

For this reason, we do not respond to investigate AFA calls from non-residential premises between 8am and 6pm (including bank holidays).

A change in the policy will occur from 1 July 2021 and TWFRS will no longer automatically respond to investigate AFA calls within hospital/healthcare premises between the hours of 8am and 6pm Monday-Friday.

We will always respond to calls 24 hours a day if:

  • a back up call is received through 999 reporting a fire or signs of fire (such as a smell of burning)
  • you have been granted an exemption by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

We will always respond to:

  • single private domestic dwellings and sheltered accommodation schemes
  • other residential premises such as hostels, hotels and care homes
  • registered Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) sites
  • premises who have successfully applied to us for exemption

We will also respond to educational premises such as universities, colleges and schools including pre-schools on weekends, bank holidays and during school holidays.

Our AFA response policy applies to calls received directly from premises and through alarm receiving centres.


There are two types of exemption that you can apply for.

Fire Alarm Exemption

To be considered for this exemption, your fire alarm system must meet certain criteria. You will need to provide:

  • certification confirming that the fire alarm detection system has been installed to BS 5839 Part 1 or equivalent standard (preferably with third party accreditation)
  • evidence that the fire alarm detection system is serviced and maintained in compliance with the recommendations of BS 5839 Part 1 or equivalent standard
  • certification confirming that a fire signal output is only obtained when at least two independent triggering signals are present at the same time (preferably with third party accreditation). This is referred to as a ‘Coincidence Alarm’ in BS5839.

Exceptional Exemption

You can apply for this exemption for your premises if:

  • the premises does not meet the criteria for Fire Alarm Exemption
  • the Responsible Person for the premises believes that there are exceptional circumstances

You will need to explain the exceptional circumstances in full.

Apply for exemption

All applications are considered on an individual basis.

Remember, it is not the responsibility of the Fire and Rescue Service to evacuate your premises. This must be part of your organisation’s fire evacuation strategy and evacuation procedures should be practised regularly to ensure that they are timely and fit for purpose. Exemption applications based solely on the need to evacuate users of the premises will not be granted.

For more information or to apply for exemption, contact the Business Fire Safety Team on 0191 444 1664 or email FireAlarms@twfire.gov.uk.