Different facilities often have different alarm types (and steps to sounding alarms), however, there are three established alarm signals that many workplaces have under their obligations regarding AS 3745-2010 (Planning for Emergencies in Facilities) and the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Some facilities will only have alarm tones, while others may also have an Emergency or Occupant Warning System (EWS or OWS) or Emergency Warning Intercommunication System (EWIS) that includes a voice message or Public Address system for the Chief Warden to communicate with everyone throughout the building. The key to successfully overcoming an emergency is to understand what each alarm means and the correct response.

Below, we explain what these three alarm tones mean, and what you should do if they sound in your workplace.

“Beep Beep”

This is the first sound you may hear in an emergency, and it means that you should stop what you are doing and prepare to respond as directed by the Emergency Control Organisation (ECO).

This means:

  • Turning off computers and other appliances or equipment.
  • Collecting the personal belongings only if they are close to you.
  • Securing anything valuable or confidential, if safe to do so.

Facilities with an Emergency Warning Intercommunication System (EWIS) will also hear instructions from the Chief Warden about what you should prepare to do next.

This alarm doesn’t always mean you will go on to evacuate, so do not evacuate unless you hear the evacuation tone, and you’re instructed to do so.

fire alarm

“Whoop Whoop”

When it’s time to evacuate, you will start to hear this evacuation tone instead of the previous one.

It will repeat at close intervals and is easy to identify by the rising and falling sound.

The Chief Warden or other Wardens will use the PA system to issue instructions at facilities with an EWIS. Even without an EWIS, when you hear this tone it means you must evacuate immediately.  Some EWIS systems have red Warden Intercom Point (WIP) phones which can be used to communicate between the Chief Warden at the Fire Indicator Panel and other specific locations throughout the building.  This is a very useful form of direct communication.

You are not able to go back into the building until advised it is safe to do so.


When you hear an alarm that is one continuous ringing sound, that indicates a potential fire has been detected.

This can be triggered either by the Fire Indicator Panel, Sprinkler System or one of the Wardens pressing the Fire Alarm Manual Call Point.

This emergency tone is found in older fire detection systems.

Emergency fire exit

How Workplace Emergency Management can help you

Knowing the difference between these emergency tones is crucial in an emergency. It is a vital part of your workplace emergency management procedures to ensure all staff know what the different emergency tones in your facility sound like, and what they mean.

Everyone in your Emergency Control Organisation (ECO) must know how to activate these alarms, and how to instruct those in the facility once they have been activated. This is essential in maintaining a safe work environment.

Workplace Emergency Management is here to help. Our team will develop workplace emergency response training and procedures to ensure that everyone in your facility knows what to do when an emergency tone is heard. Our services also include emergency exit diagrams and emergency plans, including arrangements, procedures, strategies and systems for a range of workplace emergency situations.

In an emergency, understanding the emergency plan is critical. We provide documentation and procedures that are clearly outlined and understood so your workplace can respond quickly and efficiently.

Is your workplace in need of complete emergency management services? Contact Workplace Emergency Management. Our team will leave you with more time to focus on other business, and you’ll feel confident knowing that you and your staff are able to manage any emergency.

To find out more, give us a call on 1300 831 694 or enquire now.


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