WAKING WATCH vs V-FIRE
COMMON FIRE ALARM
SYSTEM

The National Fire Chiefs Council states, “Building owners should move to install common fire alarms as quickly as possible to reduce or remove the dependence on waking watches.”

CLADDING FIRE SAFETY INFO HUB

WAKING WATCH vs V-FIRE COMMON FIRE ALARM SYSTEM

There are only two options available for buildings identified with flammable cladding to sufficiently protect residents against the outbreak of fire and allow residents to remain in the building – the presence of Waking Watch Fire Marshals throughout the building or the installation of a common fire alarm system. V360 provides both solutions.

Waking Watch

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) introduced Waking Watch as a temporary measure to ensure the safety of residents in buildings found to contain flammable cladding. A waking watch sees trained fire marshals to monitor the exterior and interior of buildings 24/7, raise alarms in case of fire breakouts, and support the residents with safe evacuation. Read more on waking watch here.

V-Fire Common Fire Alarm System

Waking watch costs are expensive as the procedures to remove cladding can take a long time. The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) highly recommends the installation of a fire alarm system as a safe and cost-effective alternative to a waking watch when the remedial works are expected to continue for longer than a year. A temporary common fire alarm system is recommended in cases where simultaneous evacuations need to be replaced beyond a short period. This is because the appropriate installation and maintenance of a temporary common fire alarm are more cost-effective and reliable in early detection.

A proper detection system assures that a fire will be detected, and the occupants will be warned at the earliest opportunity instead of depending on a waking watch to manually alert residents.

Waking Watch vs Common Fire Alarm System

Waking watch fire marshals manually alert residents when a fire is. The marshals go door to door to alert the residents, which is very time consuming as not all residents will be able to be at the door quickly. Once the residents are warned, they evacuate the premises. The fire marshals will also assist those who require support during the evacuation.

Cost – £13.59 per marshal per hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

When a common fire alarm is installed, all the alarms are triggered simultaneously in the event of a fire. Each moment is precious when a fire breaks out, and fire alarms are much more efficient than waking watch in warning the residents. All occupants evacuate as soon as the alarm is heard.

Cost – £150 per apartment per month, only if you rent the system.


As the common fire alarm system is not subject to human error or dependent on manual effort, the fire alarm is superior to a waking watch. Moreover, common fire alarms are cost-effective, saving 83% on average compared to a waking watch.

The Official Guidance on Waking Watch vs Common Fire Alarm System

Thankfully, you need not worry about this decision. As mentioned at the top of this page, The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), in conjunction with ARMA, Fire Protection Association, Fire Industry Association, OPTIVO, and Institution of Fire Engineers has released official guidance:

“Building owners should move to install common fire alarms as quickly as possible to reduce or remove the dependence on waking watches.”

Read more on the official guidance here.

Waking Watch vs Common Fire Alarm costs

V-Fire saves 82% on average compared to the cost of a Waking Watch solution. For example, an average high-rise building with twelve floors would require at least six wardens every hour of the day for a waking watch. According to research conducted by The Ministry of Housing in 2020, the expense of employing a waking watch marshal 24 hours a day goes beyond the average cost of fire alarm installation between three and six months.

A common fire alarm system works automatically and is significantly cheaper than a waking watch solution. With the increase in the UK inflation rate and corresponding hikes in National Living Wage and National Insurance, security personnel who work full time will have an increase in their annual wages, so waking costs will only get more expensive over time.

Most buildings require multiple people to undertake the duties of a waking watch. Data states that the average monthly cost for Waking Watch services in purpose-built blocks exceeds £500 per calendar month. Prime Secure offers our V-Fire common area fire alarm system to replace the need for a waking watch at a highly competitive rate of £150 per month per apartment.

Why do we need a waking watch or a common fire alarm?

The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire caused the most loss of lives in a residential fire since World War II. The combustible cladding on the building that led to the widespread fire drew attention to other forms of flammable cladding as well. Those buildings with flammable cladding are advised to adopt Simultaneous Evacuation instead of Stay-Put during the event of a fire while remediation takes place.

When dangerous external wall systems or unsuitable fire safety measures have been identified in a building, temporary safety measures need to be adopted to manage the risks and events of the fire. These arrangements can vary from removing potential fire sources to replacing the evacuation strategy of the building, such as shifting to a Simultaneous Evacuation from the Stay-Put strategy as normally recommended by the National Fire Chiefs Council.

Simultaneous Evacuation should be supported by a waking watch or the installation of a common fire alarm. A waking watch will ensure that adequate warning is given in the event of a fire to facilitate the evacuation strategy. However, waking watches are intended to be adopted only for shorter periods of time while cladding remediation and a common fire alarm are installed.

What needs to be done next if you have combustible cladding?

With V360, we can provide rapidly deployed Waking Watch Fire Marshals to speedily ensure a building remains safe for residents to occupy, should flammable cladding or other materials be discovered.

Unless your building is due for immediate cladding remediation, according to the official NFCC guidance, it is cheaper to install a common area fire alarm like V-Fire.

V-Fire saves 82% on average compared to the cost of a Waking Watch solution.

For information on waking watch, V-Fire common fire alarm system, or building fire safety, get in touch with us today on 0345 88 88 333 or by clicking the button below to email us.