BAFE contributes to Scottish smoke alarm consultation
IN ITS response, BAFE stated that a new minimum standard ‘should be introduced’ to follow the BS 5839 standard for fire detection and fire alarm systems.
The Scottish government, since September, has been seeking public views on a smoke alarm consultation, with the aim of ‘creating a blanket standard for smoke alarms across all homes’ in the country. BAFE’s response to ‘whether there should be stronger requirements for certain types of housing’ for fire and smoke alarms was that in social rented housing a new minimum standard should follow BS 5839.
In its response, BAFE stated that its ‘ethos’ is that ‘the best possible fire safety standards should apply to all properties’, and that ‘all tenements and flats, regardless of their height, should follow these same British Standards as the absolute minimum requirement’. It added that ‘allowing exceptions means that problems will occur and when they do, criticism will focus on why exceptions were permitted in the first place.
‘There should be common minimum specification for installations and the work of installers should be subject to scrutiny and inspection. This implies comprehensive training in installation work’. It also noted all housing ‘regardless of tenure’ should have the common minimum standard based on that for private rented properties, endorsing the suggestion there should be a ‘maximum age for alarms’, and that locations should be ‘more clearly expressed and be in line with published standards’.
It disagrees that any new standards might ‘require interlinking fire and smoke alarms in different flats in the same building’, commenting that interlinking ‘will cause an upsurge in unwanted fire alarm signals and calls which are already far too high in number. Interlinking contradicts the stay put policy. The stay put policy however only works if proper fire precautions such as fire stops, fire doors, sealing of internal risers, inert cladding, access to extinguishers etc in all common areas and escape routes are in place and properly maintained’.
It concluded by noting that it was ‘particularly keen to stress that however welcome improvements are to the specification, installation and maintenance for fire and smoke alarms, these are only a small part of the overall necessary response to improving fire safety. Alarms, sprinklers and evacuation procedures are important but they come into effect after a fire has started.
‘BAFE stresses the urgent need to improve fire risk assessment across all domestic and commercial building types in Scotland and for that matter in the UK. BAFE believes that prevention is better than cure. There needs to be a requirement rather than just a recommendation that the competence of all fire risk assessors is third party certificated’.
It added: ‘This is referenced by both the opinion by Sheriff Lockhart after the Rosepark Nursing Home fire and underscored by the recent report of the Regulatory Review Group. BAFE asks what actions have been taken to meet the recommendation of the RRG report? BAFE has commented above [in response] on the importance of fire stops, fire doors, sealing of internal risers, inert cladding, access to extinguishers and other prevention measures.
‘BAFE recommends much improved inspection of buildings to ensure the best standards and to help prevent the compromising of fire safety where buildings are substantially altered, modified or improved. BAFE also wishes to record its support for the regulation of electricians particularly in the context of fires caused by faulty or shoddy installation work by unqualified practitioners.’