Preventable fire alarm initiative


Updated 12/23/21

Seattle Fire Department’s (SFD) Fire Prevention Division launched a initiative in 2020 to avoid “false” or “preventable” alarms. For this reason, the City of Seattle is introducing citations of $373 or greater beginning January 1, 2020 for preventable alarms. As a result of this initiative, the availability of fire department resources to respond to true emergencies is expected to improve.

Preventable alarms include:

  • Any activation of a fire alarm system that results in notification to SFD of an event of fire that leads to a response by SFD when no such danger exists; examples include cooking, smoking, steam and improper use of manual fire alarm pull stationsseattle fire department logo
  • All activations when there is no fire, when such activations are caused by mechanical failure or malfunction due to insufficient or improper testing and maintenance, accidental activation, malicious activation, or misuse
  • Does not include activations caused by weather conditions, telephone problems or natural disasters

There is no penalty for the first preventable alarm during a calendar year quarter, for a total of up to four waived alarm penalties each year for every building. Thereafter, penalties are $373 for two to five violations in the same quarter of a calendar year, or $746 for six to eight violations in a quarter, or $900 for nine or more violations in a quarter.

Recent information indicates that SFD responds to over 5,000 false or preventable fire alarms every year. Roughly one in three fire calls received by the SFD each year are false alarms, many related to a lack of proper system maintenance. Preventable alarms take first responders and fire engines out of service for other emergency calls. The large number of false alarms puts a heavy burden on the entire system and reduces the ability to protect property and preserve lives for all who live, visit and work in Seattle.

SFD has prepared information about the most frequent sources of preventable alarms and steps you can take to reduce them. Please see Client Assistant Memorandum #5970 Preventable Fire Alarms or “False Alarms.”

For your safety, please keep in mind:

  • All fire alarm activations should be taken seriously.
  • Never assume it’s a false alarm.
  • Building occupants must evacuate when the alarm sounds.
  • If something is on fire or you see smoke, use the nearest manual pull station to activate the fire alarm then call 9-1-1.
  • Manual pull stations are typically located near exit doors on each floor.

For more information, please contact Scott D. Nelson at or 206.221.7055.