Smoke alarm

ANALYSIS OF official government figures showed that over 2m, or ‘almost one in 10’ English households ‘do not have a working smoke alarm’, and only a quarter with alarms test them monthly.

About Manchester reported on the findings from the government’s figures for 2018/19, which found that 9% of households, or 2.17m people, ‘do not have a working smoke alarm’, while only 26% with an alarm ‘test it at least once a month’. This has prompted an ‘urgent fire safety drive’ by councils and fire authorities’, with the Local Government Association (LGA) warning that the autumn ‘poses a potentially greater fire risk’.

This, it said, was because people ‘typically start to use heaters and open fires, and cook hot food’, with such acts ‘likely to be in greater numbers with more people working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions’, and the smoke alarm figures come ‘despite experts calculating that people are around eight times more likely to die in a fire in a home with no working smoke alarm’.

The LGA is urging those without a working smoke alarm ‘to buy one and test it regularly’ to check it works, as well as to ‘do this for less able family members and neighbours while respecting social distancing rules’. This can include changing batteries where necessary, and the LGA also advised people to ‘fit more than one smoke detector in their homes’, with at least one per ceiling of every floor.

With fire and rescue services having experienced a ‘huge increase in demand’ for both prevention and protection work’ post Grenfell, and undertaking them with a workforce ‘which has fallen in recent years alongside reductions in government funding’, the LGA warned this was ‘unsustainable and could expose communities to risk unless the new provisions or expectations on [FRSs] arising from the Hackitt review or subsequent changes in policy are treated as a new burden and funded separately’.

The LGA also said it wants to work with the government to ensure FRSs ‘have enough funding to help improve prevention work’, which will ‘help to increase the rate of working smoke alarms’. Ian Stephens, chair of the LGA’s fire services management committee, stated: ‘By not having a working smoke alarm, the lives of more than two million households are at increased risk. Smoke alarms are proven life-savers and can make the single vital difference between surviving and dying in a fire.

‘Smoke alarm ownership has risen over the years to more than 90 per cent, but this positive trend is being dangerously undermined if people don’t check that their alarms are working. Many of us are still at home more as a result of the pandemic. The onset of autumn is a timely reminder to anyone without a smoke alarm to buy and fit one as soon as possible and to those already with smoke alarms to test them regularly and change batteries where necessary.

‘Many [FRSs] can fit smoke detectors for free as part of a home fire safety visit. Extra funding to help with the increase in prevention work will help firefighters increase the rate of working smoke alarms.’