Waking Watch: Is it the answer?

Posted: 29.07.2021

Here we explore the pros and cons of Waking Watch fire wardens

With the spotlight firmly on fire safety in multi-tenanted buildings, thousands of Waking Watch wardens have been deployed to monitor fire risk in these properties. Staffing can amount to thousands of pounds per day, with the costs being distributed between residents and landlords. Properties with Waking Watch in place are unlikely to qualify for mortgages, this prevents residents from moving and forces them to live in buildings that have been deemed unsafe.

In this blog, we’re briefly exploring the pros and cons of Waking Watch and alternative solutions that could enhance life safety, while reducing the ongoing Waking Watch warden fees.

What is Waking Watch?

Waking Watch fire wardens are fire safety trained guards. They are tasked with walking buildings, monitoring the risk of fire. Their day may be made up of listening & responding to smoke detection activation in dwellings, they’ll be ensuring that fire doors are closed and corridors are clear of hazards. Depending on the site, guarding may vary from a single guard between 20:00-08:00 or multiple guards 24/7.

How effective is Waking Watch?

This depends. On paper, Waking Watch should enhance fire safety in a building. The reality is sometimes different; skill levels of guards, the areas they need to cover, tiredness, site complexities and many other factors can influence how effective wardens can be.

If wardens are challenged to monitor and identify fires in buildings, this becomes very difficult if the building does not have a fire alarm in place. If a fire was to happen on the top floor of a building and the guard was carrying out an external walk, how long would it be before the fire was identified?

What else can be done?

For buildings that are at risk, there will always be a place for Waking Watch. But not in all buildings. Waking Watch fees are a sunk cost, and this should be assessed before entering into long term contracts.

Fire safety improvements in buildings almost always offer a Return on Investment (ROI) over Waking Watch fees, while improving building occupant safety. If Waking Watch wardens have been employed to mitigate issues with fire doors, the best course of action is to repair the fire doors as soon as possible. If your building has fire compartment issues, fix them as soon as possible. If your building has cladding, remove the cladding, etc, etc.

Introduce technology. If the standards state your at-risk building does not require a fire alarm, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have one. We’ve had customers paying tens of thousands of pounds per month on Waking Watch fees, and by installing a well-designed fire alarm system have received an ROI within weeks. In most cases, a fire alarm will allow you to remove, or at worst, drastically reduce the number of wardens required.

Fire alarms no longer need wires (not many anyway). Multiple manufacturers are offering a fantastic range of wireless systems that can be installed in several days, even in buildings with Asbestos. These systems are perfect for scenarios where Waking Watch wardens are tasked with monitoring fire event activity. A fire alarm provides a far greater level of detection than a human can and are almost always more cost-effective.

Monitor your fire alarms. Remote monitoring of fire alarm systems comes in a few different forms. Simple autodiallers raise general fire events with Alarm Receiving Centres (ARC). Data-rich monitoring integrates with the fire alarm and provides monitoring centres and control rooms detailed information of fire event notifications, which is used to pinpoint exactly where a fire is. Monitoring solutions vary in cost but are more cost-effective than having Waking Watch in place.


  • Buildings that are at risk and are undergoing fire safety upgrades and improvements will benefit from guarding
  • Fire safety enhancements should be carried out as soon as possible; fixing the issue will always be better than monitoring it
  • Buildings that have wardens in place for long periods will benefit from having technology installed to replace/reduce the number of wardens on-site
  • Fire detection technology will do a better job at detecting and reporting fires and will almost always be more cost-effective
  • Fire detection systems can be remotely monitored, with operators carrying out the same function as a Waking Watch guard, but for a fraction of the cost

Drax 360

If you’d like to learn more about how Drax 360 can help reduce your reliance on Waking Watch, please booking a meeting with one of our experts here.

If you’d like to speak with someone now, please call +44 (0) 345 459 2300, we would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading.

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