New initiative to encourage installation of smoke alarms

More and more homes now have smoke alarms installed and they save many lives each year. To further increase their use, Safelincs has produced an advisory card to go out with residential orders for smoke alarms that encourages customers to check that family members, and other people they know, have adequate smoke alarm systems in place.

Under the heading ‘Are your friends and family protected’ these cards give a web address where they can access their local Fire and Rescue Service for free advice. The card also provides few important fire safety statistics.

For commercial customers we created an A4 poster with similar messages that can be displayed on notice boards for employees.

This material was developed in association with Fire Kills, the UK’s Government-sponsored fire safety campaign, of which Safelincs is a partner. Free copies of the poster and card are being made available free of charge to Fire and Rescue Services and similar organisations.

View these and other Safelincs fire safety resources

Safelincs presentation to National Chief Fire Officers Association

Safelincs was very pleased when they were asked to present a section at the National Prevention Committee Meeting which was held by the Chief Fire Officers Association at the end of January. The invitation to the West Midlands Fire Service headquarters came as a result of our partnership in the Government’s Fire Kills campaign.

The Fire Kills representative for the campaign had previously tabled a paper expressing concerns that large numbers of households may now have mains powered smoke alarms that are past their useful working life. In 1992 the Building Regulations were amended, requiring every new build to have mains powered, interconnected smoke alarms installed. Many smoke alarms installed under this regulation are still in use and are potentially approaching their twentieth year of operation. This has raised the question; “when should mains powered smoke alarms be replaced?”

Research carried out in the USA and Canada tends to support the manufacturers recommendation that all smoke alarms, mains or battery powered, should be replaced every ten years. The results of this research supports claims that a smoke alarms effectiveness may be compromised over time due to accumulated dust, insects, airborne contaminants and corrosion of electrical circuitry.

The two main issues surrounding the replacement of mains powered alarms are:

  1. Making people aware that smoke alarms do not last forever and need to be replaced after a certain amount of time
  2. A concern that, when made aware, householders will be scared off replacing their units due to the expense and inconvenience of having to call out an electrician to carry out the replacement.

Harry Dewick-Eisele, managing director of Safelincs, presented a new product at the committee meeting which has been specifically designed to address the second issue. easichang®, is a replacement detector head containing the sensor and circuitry for a range of Ei Electronics smoke and heat alarms – the UKs most widely used mains powered alarms. Using the removal tool provided, the old head unit can be removed leaving the base plate (which is wired into the mains power) in situ. The new head unit can then be easily installed on the existing base without requiring an electrician.

The presentation sparked a lot of interest with most in attendance seeing the benefits of these products. Plans are now under way to carry out UK based research which will help to provide crucial evidence as to how frequently smoke alarms should be replaced.

The meeting was left on a positive note with delegates returning home to continue discussions with colleagues about the most successful way to promote the active replacement of smoke alarms no longer fit for purpose.

Update 03-02-2021: The Easichange range of alarms has been discontinued in light of ongoing changes to the replacement models. Safelincs’ support for customers continues with a simplified series of replacement smoke and heat alarms that will still be familiar to previous Easichange customers.

Figures reinforce calls for more smoke alarms

Six out of ten people who died in fires in 2009 had no smoke alarm fitted in their home, according to figures released by London Fire Brigade. 26 people died in fires where there was no working smoke alarm. The statistics also show that over half of the people who were injured by fires in the home in 2009 didn’t have this simple life saving device either.

Smoke alarms cost as little as £7.19 yet it is estimated that over 300,000 homes in the capital still do not have one. In contrast, Mintel’s British lifestyle survey reveals that people are spending £36 million a day on personal care.

Particularly tragic are instances where deaths have occurred in residences where smoke alarms had been installed but where either the batteries had been removed to power other devices or they had been allowed to go flat.

Safelincs supports the national Fire Kills campaign to encourage people to regularly test the batteries of their smoke alarms. It also provides a free smoke alarm reminder service which will notify you if your smoke alarms will need testing or replacing.

Why should smoke alarms be replaced after ten years?

In 1992, Approved Document B of the Building Regulations were updated to require new and significantly refurbished properties have at least one smoke alarm installed and working in the home. In July 2000, the Document was further amended and required every new build or refurbished property to have mains-wired, interconnected smoke alarms to be installed. With many alarms installed under these Regulations still in use and potentially being several decades old, it was necessary to research a recommendation as to when mains powered smoke alarms should be replaced.

Current recommendations

  1. The majority of research found on this subject emanates from the US. The US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have issued NFPA Standard 72, National Fire Alarm and Signalling Code (2010 edition), which states:
    1. “Replace all smoke alarms, including those that use ten-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are ten years old or sooner if they don’t respond properly when tested.”
  2. US fire safety websites, along with those in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, tend to recommend the replacement of domestic smoke alarms, whether battery or mains-wired, when they:
    • Fail to respond to tests
    • Are ten years old (varying between date of installation and manufacture)

Why Replace Alarms?

Several reasons are provided to justify the replacement of smoke alarms after ten years.

  1. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety cite a nationwide study undertaken by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which states that 97% of smoke alarms should still be functioning after one year, if supplied with power. After ten years it is 73%, whereas after 20 years, this figure stands at 54%. The study also indicated that 60% of the failures were due to flat or removed batteries or a disconnected power supply and the study offered possible reasons for this. Ageing alarms may experience sensitivity drifting, which may, in turn, result in an increased frequency of accidental activation and an increase in people removing the power supply It was thought that newer alarms with a ‘hush’ feature may contribute to remedying this
  2. An NFPA report cites a study undertaken by Canada’s Ontario Housing Corporation supporting the fact that 3% of smoke alarms will fail within one year. They also say that after 30 years, nearly all the alarms will have failed. They conclude that replacement after ten years, with roughly a 30% probability of failure, is an appropriate balance between safety and cost
  3. The South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service state that smoke alarm technology has improved significantly since legislation was introduced (similar requirements to the 1992 UK ones were introduced in Australia in 1995) and replacing old smoke alarms is an ideal opportunity to upgrade smoke alarm systems. The Australian Standard for smoke alarms (AS 3786) specifies an effective life of 10 years, suggesting that after that time effectiveness may be compromised with accumulated dust, insects, airborne contaminants and corrosion of electrical circuitry
  4. In the early 1990s, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission undertook an extensive study, called the National Smoke Detector Project, to examine smoke alarm ownership and operability. Some failures were found in smoke alarms, but there were no large or systematic problems identified with detector designs or manufacturing practices that cast any doubt on their long term reliability. However, a variety of component failures, corroded battery clips and deterioration and corrosion of the horn element contacts were found in a few smoke alarms
  5. Other reports from New Zealand and Canada looked at operability of battery smoke alarms, but no further reports on the operability and longevity of mains-wired smoke alarms could be found

Testing Smoke Alarms

  1. It should be noted that the regular testing of smoke alarms should help identify inoperable devices as testing a smoke alarm simulates smoke and does not simply test the power supply. This would indicate smoke alarm maintenance messages remain a priority. However, it was queried whether all smoke alarm test functions operate in this way, or whether some simply do test power supply, be it battery or mains-wired
  2. The general view from UK based smoke alarm manufacturers reflects the findings elsewhere. With contaminants such as dust, insects, grease and nicotine, the smoke alarm chamber is susceptible to becoming excessively sensitive or insensitive. This may lead to either an increase in nuisance false alarms, or to eventually becoming unable to detect smoke. One manufacturer reports that contamination is extremely variable, but that field experience indicated that 10 years is a reasonable compromise

Conclusion

  1. Evidence of smoke alarm longevity appears to be scarce and inconclusive. As with other electronic items, there will be failures in the units when they are produced and failures during their lifetime due to individual component faults. Similarly, as they get older more faults are likely to occur. Problems specific to smoke detectors include increased sensitivity
  2. In all the work identified so far, none has specifically concentrated on the failure of smoke alarms when they age. Smoke alarms do fail but the rate at which they do has not been accurately determined or related to their age.
  3. Despite there not being much research, it does seem appropriate to replace smoke alarms after ten years (in line with manufacturers advice), unless individual alarm testing suggests earlier replacement.

Mains-wired interconnected alarms – Replacement kits

  1. Safelincs has developed products designed to help facilitate the process of replacing the smoke detector heads for mains-wired interconnected smoke alarms

Development of Landlords Fire Safety Bill

Liberal Democrat MP, Adrian Sanders, has introduced a  private members bill to ensure that landlords are responsible for having a working smoke alarm system for the premises they let.

This bill will now have its second hearing. The bill outlines the responsibility of landlords to ensure that on the onset of a new tenancy there is a functioning mains wired smoke alarm system installed in each property. The continuous responsibility to ensure that the alarm system is in good working order would then be that of the tenant.

Mr Sanders hopes that this bill will help to protect a vulnerable section of our society. It comes as a result of two children dying in a fire in a rented property in Torquay in October 2009. The property was not equipped with smoke alarms.

Lucky Escape for Family in House Fire

A family living in Hill Lane, Blackrod had a lucky escape from a fire at their home thanks to an early dog walker on Saturday, 19 June 2010.

The fire is said to have started in a metal outhouse attached to the house. The flames had already spread to cause damage to the rear door and had caused the upstairs bedroom window to crack, where the couples four year old daughter was asleep.

The house was not fitted with any working smoke alarms and had it not been for the passerby alerting the family to the danger, the outcome could have been devastating.

Do not leave your fire safety to the chance of a passing dog walker, install smoke alarms and ask for advice from your fire brigade.  Many local fire brigades offer free safety checks and may be able to offer a free smoke alarm.

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New Safelincs Partner in France

Safelincs France was re-launched on the 1st of June with a new and fresh fire safety web site aimed specifically at the French market. This follows the change of our French partner earlier this year. Our new partner, Epsylone SARL, is widely known in France and already operates a number of fire safety related websites. Epsylone also operates a nationwide smoke alarm installation and servicing network ‘Flammes and Co‘.

We are expecting a substantial increase in smoke alarm sales in France due to changed legislation requiring smoke alarms in many types of buildings. Safelincs France will be well positioned for this increase due to its longterm relationship with quality suppliers such as Kidde and EI, offering a wide range of NF-certified smoke alarms and CO alarms.

Being fire safety savvy on holiday

At this time of year many people may be looking at booking a holiday or be getting ready to pack their bags in search of some sun. It is so easy to just think about what we need to put in the suitcase and forget about safety issues. A few quick tips may make your holiday a safer one.

Most hotels and B&B accommodations in the UK are equipped with the required smoke alarms and extinguishers to ensure the safety of those staying there. However, this is not always the case, especially in other countries where regulations may be more relaxed.

When you arrive at your destintion look to see if alarms are fitted and where extinguishers are placed. Make sure you know what type of fire extinguishers are installed and what they can be used on. Always establish where the fire exits are and check that they have not been blocked. Check to see if there is a secondary exit out of your hotel room and read the fire safety poster that should be in every room explaining the evacuation procedure.

If you are not happy with the safety standards and the fire protection in the hotel, notify your tour operator or talk to the hotel manager.

You may want to consider taking a portable smoke alarm with you on holiday to place in your room and ideally also a carbon monoxide alarm, which will alert you should there be any carbon monoxide present from gas boilers etc. Even if there is no gas applialce in your room it is important to remember that carbon monoxide can seep through walls and there may be hidden dangers in adjoining rooms.

If you are traveling with children make sure you have explained to them what they should do if the fire alarms were to go off. Show them the assembly place situated outside the building. Have some fun too, ask them to see how many extinguishers they can find.

Above all, enjoy your holiday and include your impression of fire safety issues in any reviews you may write about the place you stay at.

Protecting animals from fire

There is always a dilemma when protecting animals, kept in outside sheds, from fire. The high pitched sound of smoke alarms installed in the sheds causes distress to the animals and can seriously affect the animal’s health. On the other hand you have to detect fires in the sheds as quickly as possible if you are going to evacuate the animals in time to save their lives.

We help animal lovers and farmers overcome this problem by offering an alarm system with sensors placed in the sheds that will radio-interlink to the alarms fitted in the house. The fire detectors have their sounders de-activated but will alert you at your house should a fire break out in the sheds.

For further advice, please do not hesitate to contact a member of staff at Safelincs on 01507 462176

Which smoke alarm should you choose?

Once you have reached the decision to protect your home and it’s occupants from fire by purchasing smoke alarms the dilemma begins. Which alarm should you buy and where should you install it?

To help you overcome this dilemma we have produced a series of guides that will help to explain the different types of alarm and the most suitable place to install them. The guides have pictorial clarification as well as written and also an informative installation overview. We also have a guide for specific positioning information, such as how close alarms can be to the wall.

The development of these guides is the result of a customer comment on our customer questionnaire. We take all our customers and their comments seriously and strive to improve our services. We respond to our customer comments and let them know how we are going to improve our services as a result of their feedback.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us at support@safelincs.co.uk.