Is Your Holiday Home Protected From The ‘Silent Killer’? Carbon Monoxide Responsibilities For Accommodation Providers

When someone books a holiday, what features do they look for? Maybe a hot tub, fire pit or log burner for that little bit of luxury? A carbon monoxide detector might not be top of the list, but with carbon monoxide (CO), or the ‘Silent Killer’ responsible for around 60 accidental deaths every year in England and Wales, ensuring your holiday accommodation is CO safe should be a priority. Did you know that as a holiday home owner in England, you have a legal responsibility to comply with regulations relating to carbon monoxide safety? Holiday-makers want to have peace of mind that their safety is a top priority when booking a holiday, and carbon monoxide safety is no exception.

Why is carbon monoxide dangerous?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas with no smell or taste and can be difficult to detect without the aid of a carbon monoxide detector. Symptoms such as tiredness, shortness of breath, nausea and headaches can be easily mistaken for flu or food poisoning. However, after exposure to high levels for 2 hours, the person may become unconscious and could die from this poisonous gas. With such sudden consequences, early detection is critical.

Accommodation providers: Your responsibilities

CO gas is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels containing carbon, for example coal, wood, gas or charcoal. A build-up in emissions of CO gas can come from:
• Faulty gas appliances
• Fuel burning stoves, open fires or BBQs used in poorly ventilated areas
• Running a car engine in an enclosed space.

Holiday Home Owners, like landlords, have a responsibility to ensure that their properties are compliant with the regulations Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. These regulations state that a carbon monoxide detector should be fitted in any room that has a solid fuel burning appliance such as a log burner or open fire. Whilst not a legal requirement, it is also advisable to install a detector in any room with a gas or oil burning appliance such as a boiler or oven. You should also check and log all smoke and CO alarms on change-over day for added peace on mind.

The maintenance of gas appliances in all properties is also of paramount importance. The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 outlines the legal duties of self-catering accommodation providers to ensure the safety of any guests. All gas appliances should be installed and checked annually by a Gas Safe Engineer. Accommodation providers need to ensure adequate ventilation throughout the holiday accommodation. This is of particular importance in caravans, lodges and tents or glamping pods.

Provide information for your tenants

With frequent change-over of tenants and short-term occupancy, it may also help to provide a factsheet with guidance on carbon monoxide safety. Information such as how to locate and turn off the mains gas supply, what to do if the carbon monoxide alarm goes off or who to contact in an emergency may prove invaluable. Some tenants will be unfamiliar with gas appliances and general advice on how to use them safely could be useful.

Furthermore, unlike some smoke alarms that are prone to false triggers, a CO alarm is very unlikely to go off unless it detects carbon monoxide. False alarms are very unlikely and residents should be advised to act immediately and assume it is an emergency situation. Many people are not aware of the CO emissions from BBQs and camp fires. Cosy fires and family BBQs can prove deadly if emissions are allowed to accumulate in a tent, glamping pod or caravan. Campsites or caravan sites are advised to alert campers to the possible dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from these activities.

Confidence in the UK holiday market

With the trend in UK ‘staycations’ looking set to continue into next year, ensuring the safety of guests in all accommodation will only help to increase confidence in UK holidays. Families should have peace of mind that their safety is of the utmost importance. There are many options for carbon monoxide alarms including combined or separate smoke and CO alarms, audible and visual cues and fixed or portable units. The requirement of each accommodation type varies depending on size, risks and structure.

The Kidde 7DCO alarm is a great solution for most providers as it is Kitemarked as safe for use in all domestic situations as well as in caravans, boats and tents. Its 10-year lifespan, digital display and option for free-standing or wall-mounting makes it a reliable and flexible option. And, with readings taken every 15 seconds and displayed on the digital panel, guests would have complete peace of mind that they are protected from the ‘silent killer’.

A suitable carbon monoxide alarm
Digital Display Carbon Monoxide Alarm 10 Yr Warranty – Kidde 7DCO

If you are an accommodation provider and would like more information, please contact our customer care team on 0800 612 6537.

Mel Saunders

Marketing Designer

Mel joined our team at the start of 2020. She creates our marketing materials and manages our social media accounts.

What causes “chirping” and false alarms in smoke alarms?

This post was written in 2016 and a more recent version exists. Please read our new guide to troubleshooting beeping smoke alarms.

hoovering-alarmIf your smoke or heat alarm is beeping or “chirping” in the middle of the night with no obvious reason, you may begin to see it as an annoyance rather than a life saving device.

False alarms and chirping are often alerting you of problems that require attention. There are a number of checks that can be done to help find the cause before seeking further help from the manufacturer or retailer. Below is a step-by-step guide to the possible causes and solutions for false alarms and chirping; however, always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for your exact smoke or heat alarm model. Additional care should be taken with mains powered alarms, as interference with the alarm can cause electrocution.

1) Are you using the correct type of smoke alarm?

There are three main types of domestic alarms available on the market:

Ionisation Smoke Alarms – Slightly quicker at detecting fast flaming fires than other technologies but usually only installed in upstairs landing areas. If installed near a kitchen, where the occasional toast might get burned, ionisation alarms can cause false alarms. The installation of this alarm near sources of smoke is one of the key reasons for false alarms in daytime.

Optical Smoke Alarms – Slightly quicker at detecting slow smouldering fires that can originate from upholstery type materials and over-heated wiring. Suitable to be installed in bedrooms, living rooms and downstairs hallways. These are fairly ‘toast-proof’ and can be installed near kitchens (not in kitchens, though).

Heat Alarms – Activate when the temperature inside the room reaches a certain trigger level or if the heat in a room rises very quickly. These are ideal in kitchens and garages, as they do not get triggered by fumes. Please note that a heat alarm only covers a small area, so larger kitchens will require several heat alarms.

All types of alarm will sound in the event of a fire; however, understanding more about each sensor technology helps you to select units that are least likely to cause false alarms. Alarms placed in the wrong location will on the other hand cause false alarms, eg if you have a smoke alarm located in the hallway and this sounds each time you use the toaster or boil vegetables, it is likely that you have an ionisation smoke alarm installed rather than an optical.

2) Is the alarm in the optimum position?

The user manual for your smoke or heat alarm will provide advice on where to avoid positioning your alarm on the ceiling. Below are some examples of locations to avoid placing your smoke or heat alarm:

  • Near fluorescent lights – as electronic “noise” can cause false alarms
  • In front of air supply ducts for heating or air conditioning, or near ceiling fans
  • Directly above cookers/toasters/kettles (heat alarm) – although heat alarms are designed not to cause false alarms from cooking fumes, they should not be installed directly above cooking appliances
  • Within 0.9m (3ft) of the door to a bathroom or shower room (smoke alarm) – steam can cause false alarms

3) Is there dust and/or insects inside the alarm?

Smoke alarms contain a sensor which is used to detect a fire. Over time, dust can build up or small insects/flies can crawl inside the unit, obstruct the sensor and eventually cause false alarms. Cleaning your alarm helps to remove anything that could be blocking the sensor. Wipe the outside of the alarm with a damp cloth, then using a vacuum nozzle or a hair dryer (set on cold), to suck or blow through the openings of the alarm.

4) Have you been decorating nearby?

If decorating, especially sanding, has recently taken place, dust particles or paint fumes could have entered the sensor chamber, causing damage to the unit and therefore causing false alarms. It is recommended to temporarily cover the alarm whilst decorating. Some alarms are supplied with a protective cover, so keep hold of this after installation for any future use. If you suspect decorating may have affected your alarm, try cleaning the unit as described above.

5) Is the temperature causing the alarm to beep?

Smoke alarms have an optimum operating temperature and it is important to ensure that your alarm is not subjected to temperatures above or below these thresholds. Typically, the operating temperature for a smoke alarm is between 0 ˚C to +40 ˚C. If the alarm is positioned where it may experience blasts of hot or cold air e.g. close to a front door, or the ambient room temperature is not constant e.g. in attics, this is when false alarms can occur. It may be necessary to reposition your alarm.

6) Is the alarm at the end of its life?

Each smoke and heat alarm should have a sticker located on the edge or the back of the unit indicating a replace-by date. This is usually ten years after manufacture. If your alarm starts chirping or regularly sounds falsely, it could mean that the alarm is close to, or has reached the end of its life. Check the date to see if the alarm is due to be replaced.

7) Is there a problem with the mains supply?

Mains powered smoke alarms can usually be identified by two LEDs located on the face of the unit. One LED flashes red approximately once a minute to indicate that the unit is operating correctly. The second LED should be constantly green to indicate that mains power is present. If the green LED is not present, this could mean that there is an issue with the mains power getting to the alarm. If needed, advice should be obtained by a qualified electrician.

8) Is the battery running low?

Chirping every 30-40 seconds is generally an indication that the battery is running low. If your smoke or heat alarm has a replaceable battery, try replacing the battery with a brand new one. It is recommended to change the batteries in your smoke and heat alarms every 12 months. Changing your battery before it runs low helps to overcome the annoying chirps at night. Change the batteries when the clocks are changed forward or register for a free email reminder service.

Many smoke and heat alarms are now fitted with a sealed lithium battery, designed to last the life of the alarm. These batteries are not accessible for replacement and so if your alarm starts chirping but has a non-replaceable battery, the alarm may have reached the end of its life. Batteries running low apply to both solely battery powered alarms as well as mains powered units with a back-up battery.

9) Is there another alarm nearby?

If you have tried all the above and you can still hear chirping, the final check is to see if there is another alarm or device within the same area that could be causing the chirp. It is easy to associate chirping with smoke and heat alarms and forget that other devices e.g. carbon monoxide detectors could also contain a battery that is running low.

Safelincs are happy to provide information regarding your smoke and heat alarms. For more information, you can also visit our Smoke Alarm Help Guides page, or contact our customer services team.

False Fire Alarms Waking You Up?

This post was written in 2011. Please read our new guide to troubleshooting beeping smoke alarms.

A common complaint we hear about are smoke alarms that go off in the middle of the night. There are a number of reasons and steps you can take to minimise the possibility of nuisance alarms waking you up.

Smoke alarms with low batteries will emit a beeping sound to indicate that the batteries require replacement. Batteries are at their weakest at night when it is cooler and you can therefore get low battery warnings which can wake you up. If it is a low battery warning sound (every few minutes or so), change your batteries. Make sure you use good quality batteries, as cheap batteries may not be strong enough to power the alarm and again cause the alarm to bleep during the night .

The issue of low batteries may  also apply if you have mains powered smoke alarms, as most mains powered alarms contain a backup battery to power the alarm in case of power failure.

If a mains powered smoke alarm gives an irregular warning sound, it might also indicate that the mains power supply is interrupted. Some smoke alarms have a green LED light on the outer case to show that the smoke alarm is connected to the mains power. If the green LED is not lit it can be an indication that there has been an interruption in the mains power supply and that the alarm will be using the back up battery as the power source.

Should the alarm emit a continuous sound, check first of all that there are no signs of a fire. False alarms can be caused by condensation or insects finding their way into the alarm. To eradicate this type of false alarm try to vacuum out the inside of the smoke alarm as thoroughly as possible and ventilate the room to reduce the condensation present.

When a smoke alarm has reached the end of its life it might also start to sound an intermittent beep as and when the alarm starts to become faulty. Check the manufacturing date of the smoke alarm. Smoke alarms need replacing after ten years.

In all cases of nuisance beeping or false alarms do not disconnect your alarm or leave the alarm without batteries fitted. This would leave you unprotected in the event of a fire and you would not receive any warning to evacuate the building.

To ensure that you have done everything possible to minimise the chances of false alarms and nuisance beeping take advantage of our free reminder service to alert you to replace batteries or replace the smoke alarm unit.