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Landlords urged to check smoke detectors before Christmas

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

Property owners are reminded it is a legal requirement to ensure their rental property has adequate smoke detectors installed. Some property owners think they are required to install mains powered alarms but this is not the case, as battery technology is also accepted.

Some smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are now manufactured with a 10-year sealed battery unit, and these types of alarms are typically cheaper and more convenient alternative to mains powered alarms. However worryingly, fresh analysis shows that battery-powered smoke alarms actually failed in more than a third of residential property fires in England last year. Firefighters attended more than 7,500 fires in homes with battery-powered alarms last year and found that 38% failed to alert residents of the danger. Incorrect positioning caused almost half – 45% - of the failures, while missing or faulty batteries caused 20%. Landlords are urged to test their smoke alarms regularly, but especially during the run-up to Christmas when festive decorations, candles and lighting pose a potentially greater fire risk.

Of 29,586 property fires attended in England between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020, 22,475 homes were fitted with a smoke alarm. Battery-powered smoke alarms were found in 7,692 of the homes - but, of these, 2,899 (38%) failed to sound. Mains-powered smoke alarms, by comparison, were less likely to fail, with failures reported in 21% of fires. Industry figures suggest that one in 10 households do not have a working smoke alarm, while 22% never test theirs. Smoke alarms are proven life-savers, but these worrying ‘failure’ rates are a reminder to people to test their smoke alarms regularly and change batteries where necessary. Smoke alarm ownership has risen over the years to more than 90%, but this encouraging trend is being dangerously undermined if they don’t activate due to faulty batteries. The run-up to the festive season is a timely reminder of the importance of fire safety, but working batteries aren’t just for toys at Christmas – they are needed in smoke alarms all-year round. With the increased potential fire risk from Christmas trees, decorations, candles and lighting, and people spending more time using heaters, open fires, and cooking hot food during the colder winter months, anyone without a smoke alarm should buy and fit one as soon as possible. They should also check the alarms of less able family members and those on their own - it may save their life.

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