The London Fire Brigade has warned it will soon stop attending automatic fire alarms in most non-residential buildings – unless they are told a fire is definitely happening.

The brigade believes the move – which will affect buildings like office blocks and industrial estates – will save firefighters valuable time, as less than one per cent of automatic fire alarms are triggered by genuine fires.

The automatic systems in question are those where the fire service is alerted to a potential blaze without anyone having called them.

The new policy will only apply between 7am and 8.30pm. During those hours, the brigade will only attend the affected buildings if a call is also received from a person reporting a fire. Outside those hours, the brigade will still attend all alarms in any building.

Premises exempt from the new policy include hospitals, schools, nurseries, care homes and heritage buildings, which means crews will still attend if an alarm call is generated.

The change will be made in October, and will bring the brigade into line with almost every other UK fire service, it claims.

Deputy commissioner Charlie Pugsley said the decision had been taken following a public consultation last year and that the policy would bring “significant benefits”.

He said: “We are here to keep London’s communities safe, and we want to do this as effectively as possible. We will always attend an emergency and will continue to attend an alarm at any premises where people sleep – such as homes, hotels and prisons.”

He added that the change will give firefighters more time to focus on prevention, such as visiting vulnerable residents and communities, making fire safety checks, and operational training.

Between April 2023 and March 2024, the London Fire Brigade says it attended around 52,000 false alarms generated by automatic fire alarms. The false alerts are most commonly caused by steam or dust becoming trapped inside the detectors, or simply through poor design and maintenance.

A brigade spokesperson said the National Fire Chiefs Council and HMICFRS both support efforts to reduce attendance at false alarms.