Concern over lack of working smoke alarms

Monday November 7th 2022


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Nearly half of the homes where fire broke out in the last three months in Midlothian did not have working smoke alarms – despite new laws making them compulsory.

A report to Midlothian Police and Fire and Rescue Board revealed crews had attended 13 accidental house fires during July and September in the county.

And while most were restricted to the room where they broke out and involved cooking, firefighters found a high number of homes breaking the law.

Group Commander Mark Landels from Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, told the board that of the 13 house fires 11 were in homes occupied by a single person.

He said: “Unfortunately six of the 13 homes did not have working smoke alarms fitted.”

The Scottish Government introduced new rules requiring all homes in Scotland have the interactive fire systems, which trigger a house-wide alarm in the case of an emergency, on February 1 this year.

Some local authorities received additional time to introduce the alarms after shortages in the supply of the equipment caused delays rolling out the new systems.

Mr Landels said: “We target areas where we have attended a fire and try and gain access to check they have alarms and give advice.

“We find people are receptive if they see a fire engine in their street or have witnessed a fire.”

Members of the board voiced concern at the high number of house fires attended where there was no working smoke alarm given they are now legally required.

Councillor Willie McEwan asked if it was know whether the houses were private landlords or council properties.

He was told the breakdown of the types of housing was not available however Hilary Sangster, from the fire service, said: “We would leave no household without any alarm, particularly if it is high risk.

“We will fit the new detection which is provided in support of the Scottish Government initiative or where it is privately owned we would link with partners to make sure it is being picked up so none of them would be left untouched.

“We are picking it up as we are dealing with these incidents but clearly, ideally, we want to encourage the detection to be fitted ahead of the incidents happening.”

Councillor Peter Smaill said if any council house was discovered not to have a working smoke alarm he would like the fire service to bring it to the local authority’s attention.

He said: “Clearly something has gone wrong if we, as landlords, are not ensuring these alarms are operating.”

The board was assured more detail would be provided about incidents and the properties involved.

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