LGA warns on ‘worrying’ smoke alarm failure rate

LGA warns on ‘worrying’ smoke alarm failure rate

THE LOCAL Government Association (LGA) urged residents to fit and regularly test smoke alarms due to recent statistics on failure rates.

In its warning, the LGA cited recent figures showing almost 40% of battery powered smoke alarms ‘failed to activate’ in residential fires across England in the last year, a figure that prompted warnings from councils and fire authorities ahead of the winter period, where ‘serious fires typically increase’. Additionally, 21% of mains powered smoke alarms failed to operate last year, while a fifth or 22% of households ‘never test’ smoke alarms.

As a representative for over 370 councils and fire authorities in England and Wales, the LGA has urged the 11%, or one in 10 homes ‘without a working smoke alarm’ to buy and test them regularly to check they work, including ‘changing batteries where necessary’. On this note, missing or faulty batteries are ‘the second biggest reason’ for battery operated alarms to fail to activate, with the main reason ‘being due to the fire not reaching the detector’.

In line with this, the LGA advises fitting ‘more than one’ detector per home, with ‘at least one fitted on the ceiling of every floor’. The drive has come as part of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month, with residents also reminded to check fuel burning appliances including boilers, gas fires and cookers.

Ian Stephens, chair of the LGA’s fire service management committee, stated: ‘Smoke alarm ownership has risen over the years to 93 per cent, but their ability to provide a vital early warning is being dangerously compromised if they don’t activate due to dud batteries. Smoke alarms are proven life-savers, but these worrying ‘failure’ rates should serve as a stark reminder to people to test their smoke alarms regularly and change batteries where necessary.

‘Working batteries aren’t just for toys at Christmas – they are needed in smoke alarms all-year round. Residential fires generally peak in the colder winter months when people spend more time using heaters, open fires, and cooking hot food, so anyone without a smoke alarm should buy and fit one as a matter of urgency. In particular, those in private rented accommodation should ensure that their landlord has installed and tested smoke alarms in their property, as required under legislation.

‘To improve safety measures, fire and rescue services advise people to fit more than one smoke detector in their homes, with at least one fitted on the ceiling of every floor. People also need to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide which is a highly poisonous gas that has no colour, taste or smell and can build up in faulty boilers, gas fires and cookers.

‘Not only should all fuel-burning appliances be checked and serviced to ensure they are safe, and that chimneys or flues are free from blockages, but we would encourage people to buy and install a carbon monoxide detector in their homes for peace of mind. Many fire and rescue services can fit smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for free as part of a home fire safety visit. Anyone without these alarms in their homes should buy them and test them regularly as they may save their life.’