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​Changing false fire alarm behaviour
Monday 28 August 2017 – 3:00 PM

It has been a year and a half since DFES started billing for false fire alarms, and to date over 3000 invoices have been issued.

Governance and Strategy Executive Director Sue Paterson said property managers were now familiar with the process and many were working towards reducing their false alarms. 

“We are making headway,” Ms Paterson said. “We have seen a drop in the number of call outs for false alarms, but the most pleasing aspect of the program is the cultural change with stakeholders who are fixing system faults.

“One premises has submitted a plan to spend $50,000 to fix problems with their system, and many others are in the process of installing covers on their Manual Call Point alarms.”

After an initial reduction in false alarms, figures have levelled out somewhat but DFES’ False Fire alarm team is continuing to work closely with property managers to identify ways to reduce false call outs. 

“The team recently participated in behavioural economics training, which gave us some great ideas on how to work with our stakeholders to help achieve a reduction in alarms,” Ms Paterson said. 

”It is vital that emergency services are able to focus on real emergencies and that we reduce the number of appliances traveling with lights and sirens on the roads.”

The issue of on-billing, which is the passing on of an invoice to an individual or business, is an increasing concern. Ms Paterson said in some instances aged care facilities were passing the bills onto elderly residents because they had burnt some toast. 

“It is the responsibility of the property owner to make sure that their alarms are in the right places and are properly maintained so things like burnt toast don’t become an issue,” she said.

“DFES does not support on-billing. The false fire alarm fee is about a premises fixing their systems to ensure safety for the community, not about profit.

“Each premises receives three alarm turnouts each financial year before they are charged, so for residents who are billed we suggest they question the legitimacy of that bill before paying it.”

Currently there are approximately 100 out of almost 4000 Direct Brigade Alarm (DBA) premises on an intervention process.

“If a premises is on an intervention process we work with them and hold them accountable to ensure the systems are fixed,” Ms Paterson said.

The team will be looking at privately monitored alarms next. 

“What’s evident from our data is that alarm monitoring providers are being paid for monitoring but often call 000 without trying to ascertain the legitimacy of the alarm.”

Most false fire alarms by Perth suburb

1. Perth

2. East Perth

3. Bentley

4. Subiaco

5. Fremantle

Most false fire alarms by regional town

1. Bunbury

2. Albany

3. Kalgoorlie

4. Geraldton

5. Broome​