What to do with old smoke alarms?

Customers ask us occasionally about the recycling of smoke alarms. Here is some information relating to this.

Smoke and heat alarms fall under the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) regulations. The biggest burden, with regards to the recycling of these goods, falls on businesses manufacturing, rebranding or importing alarms or any other electrical equipment. Retailers like us have to follow a reduced set of regulations.

Retailers have to pay a fee to be allowed to recommend  their domestic customers to drop their old smoke and heat alarms off at local recycling centers (Distributor Take-Back Scheme) rather than returning them to Safelincs for passing on to the manufacturers. As the directive states that the customer should in this case dispose of the old alarm themselves at the recycling centers we could in theory refuse to accept old smoke alarms back from domestic customers. However, we allow customers to send us their old units as a courtesy when they purchase from us.

Ideally, as stated above, domestic customers should drop their old alarms off at their local recycling centers, however, they can also dispose small numbers of alarms in their normal refuse. Quite often customers are concerned that the crossed-out wheelie bin on the back of the alarm means that they must not place the unit in a normal waste bin. This is a mis-understanding, the crossed-out wheelie bin just means that this product falls under the WEEE regulations and ideally should be recycled. Nevertheless, small numbers of smoke alarms are permitted in the household waste. There is currently no differentiation in this respect between the  ionisation and other smoke alarms despite the ionisation alarms containing small amounts of radio-activity.

There are WEEE rules that differ for domestic customers and businesses. Business smoke alarm users can drop small numbers of old alarms off at the recycling centre, where the cost for recycling will be passed on to the manufacturers. Business customers can also pass the smoke alarms on to us. We then pass them on to the manufacturers. This is only the case if they buy new smoke alarms from us at the same time or if they bought the units from us in the first place (there are some detailed rules relating to this regulation, which have been left out for simplicity).

P50 self-maintenance extinguisher will now last 20 years!

We can now offer a fully warranted refurb of the P50 self-maintenance extinguishers to give the extinguishers an extra 10 year life. The refurb costs £120 + VAT and includes free collection and return of your extinguisher from your premises. At the factory, the extinguisher is stripped of its outer cylinder and base and then re-filled and re-assembled. It is then warranted for another 10 maintenance-free years. The same service is available should the extinguisher be used or accidentally discharged. Discounts for larger volumes are available. The refurbish now increase the total saving over the lifetime of the extinguisher to potentially well over £600!

The P50 is a truly environmentally friendly extinguisher!

Gloria fire extinguisher prevents truck burning down

We know that our Gloria fire extinguishers are exceptionally well-built and have superb fire fighting capability. It is still nice when a customer takes the time to describe how they used the extinguisher to good effect. Today we received the following story from Barry in Louth, Lincolnshire about a truck fire he extinguished with his Gloria home extinguisher.

Barry, 64, never thought he would ever need to use his Gloria 2ltr AFFFextinguisher that he kept in his kitchen to extinguish a fire. Last Thursday Barry’s quick thinking ensured that a lorry making a delivery to his next door neighbour’s house did not end going up in smoke

The lorry had got stuck on soft ground and after attempting to reverse out without success the driver called on Barry and his son to assist him. As they walked back to the lorry they could see smoke from the rear wheels. Suddenly the offside tyre started to burn. Barry said ‘I ran and got our extinguisher and by the time I had returned (64, not as fit as I used to be) the flames had a good hold on the inner edge of the tyre, rubber scrapings from it on the track and the plastic rear mudguard. The extinguisher put out all of the flames on both rubber and plastic immediately.’ They then doused the wheel with water to ensure that it had cooled and did not reignite.

The Gloria home fire extinguisher is very easy to use, ‘I rate the extinguisher 10/10 for ease of use, accuracy and effectiveness. Without the throw of the extinguisher we could not have reached under the truck to get to the flames on the inner wheel edge, even if we had had water immediately available. I am certain that without the extinguisher the vehicle would have burnt out as the water supply took some time to arrange and the driver did not have any fire fighting equipment at all’ said Barry.

Do you have similar stories to tell? Please contact us by emailing your story to service@safelincs.co.uk

Carbon monoxide study launched by fire brigade

Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen to anyone. The gas is tagged the silent killer as it has no smell, taste or colour. It is impossible, without a CO detector, to know if carbon monoxide is present. Merseyside and the West Midlands fire fighting services have just unveiled a pioneering study into the presence of carbon monoxide in homes. It is hoped that this study will lead to actions that will help reduce the figure of people dying from carbon monoxide or suffering from the effects of the deadly gas, which can have long term impact on a person’s health.

The fire crews involved are planning to visit households to take readings for carbon monoxide, and have already made 23,000 visits to homes. They now plan to install up to 1,200 monitors in homes in Liverpool, that will take readings for carbon monoxide gas every two minutes. The monitors will be left to take the readings for two weeks.



Chip pans cause fires, don’t be caught out!

After a good night out with friends in the pub there is nothing nicer than to get back home and finish the evening off with a midnight snack. For many people it is the last snack that they will prepare. Chip pan fires are the cause of many house fire deaths, many of them occurring as a result of the midnight munchies after a night out.

A chip pan that is left unattended can burst into flames. Many people putting the chip pan on after a night out, go and sit down while it is heating up; they fall asleep and without them being aware the chip pan bursts into flames. If a heat or smoke alarm is fitted in or near the kitchen, the occupant will be alerted to the fire and will have the time to evacuate the building and call the fire brigade.

Where there is no smoke or heat alarms fitted the story has a different ending. Unlike the perception that many people have that they will wake from the smell of smoke, the smoke overcomes them and they die of smoke inhalation before the flames reach them. Smoke is toxic and after only a few breaths you can be rendered unconscious, not giving you enough time to escape to safety.

By following two very simple safety steps you will reduced the risk of dying in a house fire.

1) Ensure that you have working smoke alarms fitted in your home.

2) Get a take-away after a night out rather than putting the chip pan on or put something in the microwave.

Here are some real life accounts from fire fighters who have attended fires caused by cooking after a night out where someone has died

Refurbished CO2 extinguishers contribute to reduce carbon foot print and costs

Many companies are looking at ways to save costs and to make reductions to their carbon footprint. Now, with the refurbished CO2 fire extinguishers, it is possible to achieve both.

The refurbished units, from Jewel Saffire, are environmentally friendly and very cost effective. The units go through a rigorous twenty-one step  process that is certified by BAFE. Once the units have passed intensive tests they are sand blasted before re-painting and are finally fitted with a brand new head valve assembly.

As these units are being re-used their manufacture has a considerably reduced impact on the environment. The raw materials and energy consumption used during the refurbishment process is just a fraction of that used during the manufacture of a new cylinder.

The units are not supplied with wall brackets, but are available with or without horns and hoses (in the case of the 5kg CO2 extinguisher), enabling customers to make even further cost savings.

Free Fire Risk Assessment Form

Completing your own fire risk assessment is permissible by law, but finding the right risk assessment form can be tricky. There are a wide range of forms available from local fire brigades to commercial risk assessors. Not all of them give you enough guidance to allow you to confidently complete your risk assessment without missing out any areas.

We gathered a wide range of different forms and pulled the best parts out of each one to create a fire risk assessment form that guides you through each area of the assessment. Our own risk assessors are now using this form and we have made it available for you free of charge to use to complete your own fire risk assessment

It is easy to use and highlights the areas that are important to fire risk assessments. This form could help limit the risk of you missing anything out in your own assessment, although you must still read the official guides available before embarking on your own fire risk assessment.

Largest insurer of faith organisations gives P50 extinguishers the thumbs up

Ecclesiastical Insurance, the largest insurer of faith organisations in the UK, such as the Church of England and the Catholic Church,  have confirmed that they are happy to insure organisations where the P50 maintenance free fire extinguishers are installed.

This formal announcement follows recent acceptance statements from other insurers. The insurance industry’s  embrace of the self-maintenance extinguishers is a major breakthrough for many businesses and organisations, as changing to the maintenance-free extinguishers could save each organisation up to £300 over the lifetime of an extinguisher.  Purchasing P50 extinguishers could not be easier. After completing the order, one of our BAFE certified engineers will visit the installation location and carry out a free site survey, ensuring that the correct type and number of extinguishers are installed. The extinguishers are then installed by the engineer and a demonstration of the simple yearly visual check, which can be completed by any able-bodied person, is given. The visual check process can be viewed through a video, too. The visit by the extinguisher engineer and all these activities are already included in the price of the extinguisher.

The P50 maintenance-free extinguishers have already been installed in many faith organisations and businesses. For further information visit https://www.safelincs.co.uk/britannia/ or call 0800 612 6717

Hot discussions about extinguishers removed in HMOs

Occasionally, a heated discussion flares up when a housing association or landlord removes extinguishers from a HMO or from flats with the argument that the extinguishers would do more harm than good in the hands of untrained tenants. Their decision is based on the fear that people might risk their lives fighting a fire rather than leaving the building and that the tenants might injure themselves by incorrect use of an extinguisher. Fear of vandalism and the difficulty of maintaining and assuring the working order of the extinguishers between the yearly services is of course also a consideration.

The latest case was in Richmond:

‘Residents in Richmond have been told that portable fire extinguishers have been removed from the common parts of their housing blocks for their own safety, following the findings of a fire risk assessment.’ (info4fire 16/11/2011)

However, this case was not unique, already in 2008 a similar occurance happened in Bournemouth:

‘An independent fire risk assessment ruled the extinguishers were a hazard to untrained users and may encourage people to fight a blaze. People in flats at Avon House in West Cliff Road, Bournemouth, received letters asking to remove the equipment.’ (BBC 11/03/2008)

In both cases the recommendation was based on fire risk assessments carried out by external fire risk assessors.

The reaction by the fire safety industry and the general public was instant and sometimes fierce. Typical reactions were:

‘Surely the sensible option would be to inform residents about the practical use of handling a fire extinguisher, rather than removing them altogether’ (IFEDA Nov 2011)

‘Now burn to death in safety. Here’s another couple of examples of elf’n’safety idiocy.’ (Daily Mail Nov 2011)

What is the legal situation?

It is right and correct that Fire Risk Assessments, either carried out by the landlords or by external specialist companies, work out what the risks are in a building and what protection is appropriate for the building and its occupants; and the fire risk assessor must balance the building’s construction, its inhabitants and other factors when deciding how to achieve fire safety for the tenants. The fire risk assessment can lead to certain fire protection measures to be reduced if on the other hand other fire protection measures are strengthened, eg the type of fire alarm system might be downgraded if a sprinkler system is installed etc. However, there are guidelines which, while fairly loose, describe general recommendations which must be taken into consideration. The fire risk assessment guides created for the different type of businesses/buildings help assessors and owners to come to a reasonable conclusion.

For landlords the fire risk assessment guide ‘sleeping accomodation’ is relevant. The guide states that in cases where the main risk stems from fires involving wood, paper and textiles (not kitchen areas):

‘Typically (..) the provision of one water-based extinguisher for approximately every 200 suare meters of floor space, with a minimum of two extinguishers per floor, will normally be adequate. (..) ideally no one should have to travel more than 30m to reach a fire extinguisher.’

For landlords and HMOs specifically, there is also a useful fire safety guide from LACoRS, which brings together the main rules regarding fire safety in HMOs and let properties into one easy-to-understand guide.

This guide states on page 28:

‘The provision of fire blankets and simple fire extinguishers can be useful in restricting the development and spread of small fires in their early stages. However, unless a fire is very small, the best advice is to evacuate the building (..) This is because for larger fires people need training to know what type of  fire extinguisher can safely be used on, how to tackle a fire safely, and when to give up and get out. The installation of extinguishers can also lead to problems if they are not properly maintained or where equipment is discharged through malice or horseplay. For these reasons extinguishers are not recommended inside units of accomodation unless there are resident staff who are trained in their use (a caretaker, housekeeper, warden or similar)’

Although this sounds as if LACoRS is advising against installation of extinguishers, it carries on in the next paragraph:

‘In order to provide a facility for extinguishing small fires in their early stages, a simple multi-purpose extinguisher is recommended on each floor in the common parts of HMOs and buildings containing flats. It will not usually be practical to train tenants in the use of them, but basic advice should be offered at the start of each new tenancy.’

This positive confirmation of the need for extinguishers was later on re-emphasised in an update to the LACoRS guide in December 2008:

‘The positioning of portable fire extinguishers in the communal areas is deemed appropriate in order to help occupiers deal with small scale fires in their early stages and to aid their escape from the building.’

This time the guide clearly accepts the use of extinguishers by occupiers rather than just resident staff!

The LACoRS guide is unclear about the type of extinguisher to be installed. From our own experience, however, we would advise against powder extinguishers in communal areas, although powder extinguishers are of course the most general extinguisher commercially available. Water (with additives to avoid self-electrocution) or foam extinguishers are more suitable, as the damage in case of misuse and the risk of inhalation is substantially lower than with powder extinguishers.

Whilst there are confusing signals and guides out there, the consensus appears to be that fire extinguishers are very valuable when dealing with small fires at an early stage. As to the question ‘are they required in the communal areas to meet legislation’ there is still no clear answer. It would appear that this recommendation is subjective and the outcome is dependant from the individual assessor. The new register for fire risk assessors may influence this in the future. The register will provide those wishing to outsource their fire risk assessment to a third party with a database of qualified assessors.

Professional register for fire risk assessors opens for registration

Although it is not a necessity to employ a registered fire risk assessor or indeed to use an external assessor at all to carry out your fire risk assessment, it has been recognised for a while now that there is a need for a more in-depth system of control to be in place for those offering this service. The Institute of  Fire Safety Managers (IFSM) launched the new professional register for fire risk assessors on December 1, 2011.

In June 2011 a document, Competency Criteria for Fire Risk Assessors, was drawn up by the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council, which highlighted concerns of the standard of work carried out by fire risk assessors on a third party basis. As a result of this the IFSM decided to launch this new register.

It is hoped that the register will provide those wishing to outsource the task of carrying out their fire risk assessment with a database of qualified assessors to ensure that the contracted risk assessor is able to carry out an adequate fire risk assessment.  There have been several fatalities from fires at premises that had a fire risk assessment carried out by a third party, which was found to be of an inadequate standard.