Perhaps the most significant development in fire detection for landlords of domestic properties in the past few years has been the introduction of multi-sensor alarms like the Ei2110e Multi-Sensor Fire Alarm. This device, which combines a Smoke Alarm and a Heat Alarm in a single unit, marks a serious step forward in home fire safety. Previously, Multi-Sensor Alarms were only available to use on big panel-based systems like you'd expect to find in hotels or commercial offices. Now, they're available for use in home environments too.
So, what is a Multi-Sensor, what can it do, and what does that mean for the landlord?
The Multi-Sensor, as we've said, incorporates two alarm types into a single unit; it commonly features both an Optical Smoke Alarm and a Heat Alarm, though other combinations are available. It's important to understand that not all fires are the same. Some, for example, start off slow and smouldering and produce more smoke and relatively little flame at first; this would be picked up by a Smoke Alarm but not so easily by a Heat Alarm. On the other hand, fast flaming fires with a corresponding fast rise in temperature but very thin smoke would very probably set off a Heat Alarm before a Smoke Alarm. By combining the two, a Multi-Sensor offers the best – and crucially the fastest – possible warning if there is a fire.
The benefits of this are obvious. In a fire, every second counts and it's vital to give people the earliest possible warning and the greatest time in which to escape.
As a landlord, under BS 5839 Part 6, you're required to conduct a Risk Assessment of both your property and your tenants and to provide protection accordingly. You may not be an expert on fire types or potential dangers, but you are nevertheless legally responsible. Looking around your property, can you be sure where a fire will break out? Can you know if it will be a slow smouldering type or a fast flaming fire? So which alarm type should you install to meet your Risk Assessment: Smoke or Heat? The new Multi-Sensor is designed to meet this problem head on. Fit one and you've covered all eventualities, protecting your tenant and yourself.
The Multi-Sensor is also relevant when it comes to Risk Assessing your tenants. Some need protection over and above the minimum. A thorough reading of the government's Fire Statistics will reveal that the elderly, the infirm and families with young children will all need extra time in which to escape. Fitting a Multi-Sensor can help give them that time by providing the earliest possible warning. By giving the best protection, you are less likely to have to make changes to your alarms later on when tenants change, as everyone benefits from the best protection.
A little-known benefit of the Multi-Sensor is that it can also reduce the number of false alarms your tenants may experience. Persistent false alarms can be an expensive problem for landlords: you may get called out by your tenants; you may need to employ an electrical contractor to discover what's going on; you may find that you need to buy replacement alarms; you may even find that your tenant has decided to silence the alarm himself or herself – permanently. It's not uncommon for persistent nuisance alarms to provoke the tenant into damaging or disabling the offending alarm, leaving them totally unprotected.
False alarms can sometimes be the tenants' fault, perhaps because they never clean their units. Sometimes they're caused by environmental factors in the property. Whatever the reason, because it detects two different elements of fire, the Multi-Sensor is less prone to many of the most common causes of false alarms – such as contamination – and is therefore ideal for use in more 'difficult' applications. It can be sited in an area where problems are anticipated or used as a substitute for an ordinary alarm which is giving problems due to its position.
Aico – the UK's largest supplier of domestic mains powered alarms – was the first company to launch a Multi-Sensor Fire Alarm in to the UK residential market. The Ei2110e, as it is known, provides all of the benefits outlined above and then some. For example, a 'Dust Compensation' feature that automatically adjusts for any contamination within the sensor. This significantly reduces the risk of false alarms while retaining the correct level of sensitivity to a real fire position.
The Ei2110e Multi-Sensor offers some other significant benefits to landlords. Wireless interlink versions are available, which means that alarms can be connected together by radio frequency signals instead of hard-wire cabling, with all the cost and damage to property that can entail. Furthermore, the built in Remote Control functionality allows tenants to test and hush the unit from an optional, conveniently placed wall switch. This encourages tenant compliance, reduces the nuisance caused by any false alarms and helps prevent any potential accident caused by tenants trying to stand on chairs and reach up to the ceiling!
The new Ei3000 series also includes both Smoke + Heat and Heat + CO combination alarms; the latter being ideal for kitchens with gas appliances.
As you'd expect, Multi-Sensor alarms are more expensive than a standard Smoke or Heat Alarm – but they have a lot to recommend them to the landlord. With more and more emphasis being put on Risk Assessment by BS 5839 Part 6, anything that can cover significantly more risks in a single unit has got to be welcome news. By providing the earliest possible warning, it provides better protection for both tenant and property. Statistics show that the earlier a fire is discovered, the less property damage there tends to be, which is only common sense.
Perhaps the less obvious benefit is the reduction in the false alarms it can offer, which can be an expensive problem for landlords if problems start to occur. In difficult applications (or with difficult tenants), choosing a Multi-Sensor is likely to more than pay for itself quite quickly.
Don’t forget! Landlords are legally responsible for ensuring each property has working fire alarms and CO alarms at the beginning of every tenancy!
Reviewed: 11/02/2020 (doc:125 V1.1). Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. Please note that we provide abridged, easy-to-understand guidance. To make detailed decisions about your fire safety provisions, you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.