Lack of domestic smoke alarms in UK causing fatalities


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In research presented by BAFE and NAPIT, data collated over the last decade (2010-11 to 2020-21) in England, Wales, and Scotland record an unsettling 424,464 dwelling fires.

These fires resulted in almost 82,000 non-fatal casualties and close to 3,000 deaths. In more recent statistics made available by Fire and Rescue Services nationwide, there is an ongoing issue with high failure rates or a complete absence of domestic smoke alarms.

In England alone, during 2020 / 2021, there was a 28% failure rate of smoke alarms (i.e. that failed to operate or were not present). This failure rate rises to 39% in Scotland and increasing even further to half of all fires (50%) in Wales.

The ‘Fire Kills’ campaign from the UK government states: “You are around 8 times more likely to die from a fire if you don’t have a working smoke alarm in your home”. Both BAFE and NAPIT have stressed the paramount importance of having suitable life safety systems in place.

Provisional data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities reports close to 176,000 new build dwellings were started in England alone during the previous 12 months from year ending 2021 (July-September). It is of key importance that the housing development sector complies with Building Regulations and relevant Approved Documents when providing appropriate domestic fire detection and alarm systems. These must be installed by competent contractors.

In August last year, BAFE launched its latest competency scheme with NAPIT, called DS301. This provides a route for contractors to demonstrate their competence to design, install, commission, and maintain Grade D fire detection and fire alarm systems in domestic premises. This supports appropriate British Standards and working best practice, most notably the latest iteration of BS 5839-6 (Code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in domestic premises).

Justin Maltby-Smith, managing director BAFE, said: “This information clearly outlines that it is extremely important that any work on Grade D fire detection and fire alarm systems is performed in compliance with the appropriate current regulatory and competency documents available. Having suitable systems in place will aid in alerting residents as quickly as possible, allowing for a safer evacuation and providing emergency services more time to mitigate any damage. The housing sector has a great responsibility to use competent contractors, which is why the BAFE DS301 Scheme was developed, and it will clearly help in evidencing this competency. We must not lose focus that these are people’s homes, and they should feel safe and be confident in the systems installed.”

Frank Bertie, chief technical officer, NAPIT added: “These statistics show the risk to life posed by fire is a real threat. NAPIT are proud to be leading the way with the introduction of the new DS301 Scheme with BAFE to provide homeowners, house builders, management companies and specifiers with confidence that the contractor they use is appropriately qualified, competent, and assessed.  Registered members on the NAPIT DS301 Scheme have demonstrated their competency to deliver design, installation, commissioning and/or maintenance works for Grade D fire detection and fire alarm systems in domestic premises. Correctly installed fire detection systems help save lives and must be considered a priority in all homes.”

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