Mobilising Policy for Automatic Fire Alarms

We have a range of documents and files available to the public on our website. The file Mobilising Policy for Automatic Fire Alarms is below and you can download a copy, see any archive versions or view accessibility information.


Legal terms and policies

Reading time approx: 5 minutes
Published on 29 March 2022

Note, this is an extract from our full Mobilising policy. To request the full policy, please email

1.0 Strategy

It is the strategy of the West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) that all personnel are aware of the principles of call handling and resource mobilisation.

2.0 Purpose

The Service sets out in this document the processes that Fire Control should adhere to from the point of receiving an emergency call to the mobilisation of resources.  It also sets out the different types of resources that are available to respond to emergency calls within the West Midlands Area and how they will be mobilised.​​​​​​​

​The information contained within this Policy extends to all WMFS staff who have a responsibility to mobilise Brigade resources and those who will be mobilised to bring incidents to a satisfactory conclusion.

3.0 Responsibility

Responsibilities are detailed within this document.

Appendix 2 – AFA Call Challenge Information

Call Challenging


West Midlands Fire Service operates a policy to challenge calls reporting fire alarms actuating.

Fire Control (FC) will determine the level of call challenge needed depending upon the type of Premises where the alarms are actuating and the information from the caller.

The mobilising system will assist Operators by offering prompts attached to specific incident types which will instruct the Operator as to the level of call challenge that will be needed for the incident type that is selected.

Regardless of whether the call is to be challenged or not, Fire Control Operators will always ask the question

‘Do you know what has caused the alarm to actuate?’

This will assist the Operator in making a risk assessment of the call.

​​Types of Premises

Premises are grouped into 3 different categories –

  • Alarms Sleeping Managed
  • Alarms Sleeping Non-managed
  • Alarms Non-sleeping

​Sleeping Managed

Examples of Sleeping Managed premises are (but not limited to):

  • Hospitals
  • Care/Nursing homes
  • Boarding School
  • Hotels
  • Children’s Home

Fire Control will always challenge a call to a sleeping managed premises, as there will be a wakeful responsible person on duty who will be able to confirm why the alarms have actuated.  An attendance will only be made if the premises give fire control a reason to attend.


Fire Control will not challenge a call to a Hospital, however the question ‘do you know what has caused the alarm to actuate?‘ will still be asked.

Because of the amount of staff that are on duty at hospitals, it is accepted that if there is an incident a call will be received from a member of staff confirming that there is a fire, therefore the attendance will only be a business support vehicle.

​​​​Alarms Sleeping Non-managed

Examples of Sleeping Non-managed are (but not limited to):

  • Carelines
  • Sheltered housing
  • Domestic dwellings
  • Homes of multiple occupation

Fire Control will not challenge a sleeping non-managed premises as there will be no one who can confirm why the alarm has actuated and therefore an attendance will be made.  The premises need to give fire control a valid reason not to attend for an attendance not to be made.

Examples of Non-sleeping premises are (but not limited to):

  • Shops inc shopping centres
  • Commercial premises/offices
  • Licensed premises
  • Medical centres/doctors surgeries/clinics
  • Public buildings – Magistrates courts/police stations/libraries
  • Education facilities

If the call is from an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) they will be informed that the Fire Service will not attend unless a call is received from a member of the premises confirming signs of smoke or fire.  If there is a further call from the ARC to the activation of a second detector head within ten minutes an attendance will be made.

Alarm activations at any of the above premises will only receive an attendance if they fall into the following criteria

  • Hospitals
  • Sleeping non-managed premises
  • Call received from a lone worker
  • 2 Detector head activations (double knock)
  • Break Glass operation (not malicious)

​​Sources of Call

Fire Control will receive calls to automatic fire alarms (AFA) actuating via an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), from a member of the public ringing 999 or from an automated system known as an autodialler.

​​​Alarm Receiving Centres (ARC)

There are numerous ARC’s that receive AFA signals from commercial and domestic premises within the West Midlands area.

When taking a call from an ARC they will usually only have the address details, so a postcode check is usually the best way to confirm that the address is correct.

​​Call from Premises or member of Public

Calls to alarms may be received from someone at the premises.  This may be a member of staff or a resident who will be able to answer questions as to why the alarms have actuated.  They may be lone working such as security or may be simply passing by so may not be able to check premises to see why alarms have actuated.


An autodialler is an automated recorded voice message which passes the address where the alarms have activated. 


This is an alarm system linked to a Careline call centre installed in the homes of vulnerable persons.  The person can ask for help from Careline by activating a pendant or call point within the property, or it may be automatically activated in event of smoke or fire.  The Careline Company will attempt to contact the user to establish whether there is a fire. 

These types of call will not be challenged, but the level of attendance will be adjusted dependent on whether the Careline Operator has received speech contact from the occupant or not.

​Business Support Vehicles

Business Support Vehicles (BSV) provide a 20-minute blue light response to all AFA and Alarm calls except for alarms at domestic premises (a person’s house).

The purpose of the BSV is to provide businesses with support to reduce unwanted fire signals and improve general fire safety. They operate between the hours of 0700 – 1900, 7 days a week and are crewed by 1 Fire Safety Officer.

The BSV will also provide resilience to the staffing model; the WCdr/CCdr from the BSV may be used to staff another appliance if there is a requirement due to sickness etc.

The Duty FDS Officer needs to be informed if one or more of the vehicles goes off the run so they can arrange cover.  If the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the BSV is sick they will ring Fire Control to enable the vehicle to be booked off the run until cover can be arranged.

Levels of Response for Alarm calls received is as the table below:

Incident TypeNon SleepingSleeping Managed Inc HospitalsSleeping Non-Managed Inc Carelines
Level of ChallengeChallengeCan be challengedDo not challenge
Level of ResponseNo responseNearest PRL/BRV/ TBRV + BSV if within 20 minsHospitals –  BSV only if within 20 minsor if BSV not within 20 mins, PRL/BRV/TBRV within 20 minsNearest PRL/BRV/ TBRV + BSV if within 20 minsCareline – if no speech contact – 2 resources

​​Locations of BSV’s & Callsigns

  • Coventry – B039
  • Ladywood – C079
  • West Bromwich – D089

​​Mobilising Criteria for the BSV

  • BSV will be mobilised as an addition to the appliance that has been sent except for AFA/Alarms at Hospitals where they will attend alone
  • BSV can stand the responding appliance down if they are in attendance first & there is no fire situation
  • BSV may continue to respond if the stop message is received and they are still en route.  FC must inform the BSV via mobile phone when the stop message has been received. If they continue to proceed it will be at normal road speed with no blue lights or sounders
  • If the BSV books available from an incident and there is another AFA already in progress, the BSV can be assigned to this incident.

As the OIC is also the driver, when communicating with the BSV, this should be done via mobile phone as they may not be able to answer the radio.

Other Incident Types

Fire Control will challenge all calls that come into the Emergency Control Room.  This may be to ascertain whether an attendance needs to be made under primary or secondary response, or it may be to ascertain what resource would be best suited to attend the incident dependent on the information passed by the caller.

There are incidents that are received in the Control Room, that although may not be emergencies or indeed fires, they may still require a response from the Fire Service.  These incidents are call challenged by Fire Control staff and are detailed in Policy Fire and Rescue Service Act 2004​​