The burnt toast productivity tax: Almost one in four false fire alarms set off by charred food

By SuperEditor Mar4,2024

£40,000 average annual cost from repeated false fire alarm fines, pinpointing burnt food, steam, faulty detectors, and vape or cigarette smoke as major contributors

SMEs surveyed have faced an average cost of just under £40,000 from repeated false fire alarms fines, with the biggest perpetrators being burnt food, steam, faulty detectors, and vape and cigarette smoke.

Just over a third of those surveyed (34 per cent) identified loss of productivity as the biggest business cost of false alarms, with a further 6 per cent citing missed meetings and 11 per cent saying evacuation disruption is the costliest.

The data, which was commissioned by Kidde Commercial and conducted by Censuswide, investigated the cost of repeated fire alarms on SMES in the UK, with the businesses surveyed having on average four false alarms a year with almost two in five of the UK business owners surveyed (37 per cent) admitting they had set off a fire alarm at work.[1]

Burnt toast, vapes and steamy showers top the hit list

The top triggers to a false fire alarm blaring cited by respondents are burnt food (24 per cent) and a faulty detector (23 per cent). Steam was also a common trigger with 14 per cent of UK SME business owners surveyed citing this as such.

The rise of vapes, which can still be smoked in many public places, is also contributing to the problem with 14 percent of businesses surveyed having experienced a false alarm from an e-cigarette or vape within the last five years.

Beyond triggers, faulty detectors and incorrect positioning of detectors can also create false alarms. For example, an alarm positioned too close to kitchen or bathroom areas can be problematic.

Introducing the Kidde Commercial 2X-A, 2X-AT and Excellence Series Solution

The data shows that just under a quarter (23%) of false fire alarms experienced in the office by UK respondents are set off due to a faulty detector. The new Kidde Commercial upcoming 2X-A, 2X-AT and Excellence Series solution product launch offers technologies and features to help better protect workplaces and people including:

  • Substantially reduced false alarms: Intelligent detectors give a more accurate detection of smoke, reducing false alarms with a patented Optical Chamber.
  • Powered by AI, always in touch : Connected gateways to the panel means it can be an all-in-one visit, delivering an 80% reduction in responding to emergencies.
  • Installation costs cut by 17%: Allows new detectors to be fitted to legacy systems, meaning overall new intelligent devices are quicker to commission and maintain.
  • Patented Optical Sensing: Excellence Series is the first detector to differentiate between nuisance particles (for example cooking particles) and serious threats.

Alarm fatigue spreads

Almost two in five SME business owners surveyed (37%) also admit they don’t immediately evacuate following a fire alarm[2] – with some awaiting further instructions (7%), or even waiting to pack up their belongings (10%). This further exacerbates the productivity problem, as well as creating an ongoing safety risk.

The 2X-A, 2X-AT and Excellence Series solution enables managers to also access alarm details on mobile devices, making it more accessible and easier to find the source of the alarm. This ensures that all faults and emergencies are picked up immediately including unmanned property, and can be handled out of hours including evenings and weekends.

Arman Saeidnia, GM Fire EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) said that: “Our research shows that the number of fire alarms costing UK businesses is disruptive and often a strain on our productivity at work. It’s vital businesses know the triggers and upgrade technologies to ensure false alarms are kept to a minimum. Alarm fatigue can lead to complacencies within the workplace – making it harder for people to properly evacuate and react in the case of an actual emergency.”

Research methodology:

The research was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 501 small to medium business owners in the UK who work in person (aged 18+). The data was collected between 17.01.2024 and 22.01.2024. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct and ESOMAR principles. Censuswide is also a member of the British Polling Council.

[1] ‘Yes, once’, and ‘Yes, more than once’ answers combined.

[2] Inverse of the answer option ‘Immediately evacuate’ (63.47%) when asked the question ‘If a fire alarm goes off in your workplace, how, if in any way, would you react? (Select one)’.

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