The 1994 explosion at the Texaco Milford Haven refinery, which resulted in the injury of 26 employees, is just one example of how a poorly maintained alarm system can lead to disaster. Shortly before the explosions occurred, on-site security staff had been asked to deal with 275 separate alarms. This ultimately led to an inability to recognise and appropriately respond to the threat of an explosion.
Following this incident, public advisory body, Health and Safety Executive chose to highlight the benefits of a proper risk-assessment procedure, in addition to the virtues of an alarm-maintenance program for all businesses.
The importance of regular checks
It is essential that any security alarm system should have a 24-hour maintenance team to supervise it. Whether it is a burglar alarm going off at night or a fire alarm that is triggered too quickly, alarm systems require regular supervision and maintenance.
Preventative inspections can help avert the risk of a faulty alarm system, which can ultimately save money. The London Fire Brigade recently announced plans to fine companies with poor false-alarm records and this move may be replicated by other fire brigades across the UK.
What the experts recommend
HSE explains in their information sheet on ‘Better Alarm Handling’ that alarms should be properly prioritised in order of risk assessment and required action. There should be a useful and relevant message for staff, as well as a well-defined response necessary for each alarm.
The alarm should allow for an appropriate amount of time for a defined response. The alarm time should also reflect and accommodate any limitations apparent in the company; for example, any human disabilities or procedural difficulties.
Can you check your alarm yourself?
If you choose to provide in-house maintenance, inspection and testing (MIT) on your own alarm systems, you will be directly culpable for any failure that may occur. You will also need to be able to respond to any call-out at any time of the day or night, on every single day of the year.
By choosing to outsource your alarm management to another company, you are relinquishing responsibility and increasing your response time to any and all alarms. You are also adding in a greater piece of mind that your alarms will be better prioritised in the future.