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Fire Alarm Regulations Finally Updated

Fire Alarm Regulations Finally Updated

After years of debate about differences between PCC's need for 'hard wired, interlinked alarms' and Hampshire Fire & Rescue's policy of installing alarms with 10 year batteries, PCC Housing Standards have reviewed their policy on fire and smoke alarms in rented property. This follows new technology which has become available which overcomes some of the shortcomings of the standalone battery devices. The LACORS guidance recommending mains wired systems in all rented property was produced before the new alarms were available and is thus now, out of date.

Additionally, new national regulations come in from October 1st for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

The following is general advice that would normally be acceptable to housing officers. Each property is different and in certain circumstances a different arrangement may be appropriate following a risk assessment. An example may be where particularly vulnerable or immobile tenants are resident.

PCC guidance has only changed for a single household house or flat and for small HMOs where a Grade D system was called for. (Up to 4 stories with shared cooking facilities but not bedsit type accommodation) Previously PCC asked for all alarms to be mains wired and interlinked. They now accept the new lithium battery and wirelessly inter linkable alarms such as the Fire Angel range commonly fitted by Hampshire Fire and Rescue for vulnerable occupants.The advantages of these are;fireangel2

  • They do not require an electrician to fit (though instructions must be followed very carefully)
  • If the mains power fails they will run for even longer than the 9 volt standard backup battery
  • The 9 volt standard battery does not have to be replaced every year, saving you work or the risk of tenants breaking the alarm when doing it themselves.
  • The lithium battery cannot easily be removed by the tenant
  • They may have a longer warranty period which may even cover the battery for 5 years (though the 10 year life expectancy can be optimistic)
  • Unless the mains powered alarm is connected to an independent (landlord"s) supply, if the power is switched off or the meter runs out the backup battery runs down. (Though it will power the unit for many hours and beep before it fails)
  • If the unit fails, is stolen or breaks a replacement can be fitted quickly to the existing base.
  • The sensitivity has been improved over older technology so there are less false alarms and thus less need to tamper with the alarm.

Some see the fact that there is only one power source as a disadvantage over mains wired battery backup units but this is marginal as both types give a warning signal when the battery is low and they have a good reserve.

If there is a wall or door between multiple alarms they should be interlinked.

smokealarmsBruce Lomax, Private Sector Housing Manager has agreed the changes with Hampshire Fire and Rescue " as long as the owner / licence holder can demonstrate good management practice and has a process for testing the alarms on a regular basis." He also advises us that other Local Authorities "still have a lot to resolve around the installation of these alarms."

They have been forced to respond following the announcement, pre-election, by Penny Mordaunt MP, in her then capacity as Fire Minister, that the government will be giving away around 445,000 of these lithium battery alarms to landlords who have not installed any.

The Fire Angel WST - 630 can be wirelessly interlinked and incorporates the groundbreaking Thermoptekâ„¢ technology, which provides responsiveness to all fire types in one alarm. Only £29.98 using your TradePoint card - click here or search for product code 826713 Alternatively, the ST - 620 is not inter linkable and fine if you only need one, £15.18 and that is product code 822975.

We also recommend a heat alarm for the kitchen, although no regulations stipulate this. A wireless linkable unit comparable with the above is the WHT-620, this was on the B&Q site but appears to have dropped off, we have asked them to add it back but you can probably find it on the shelves in store.

The FireAngel W2-CO-10X Carbon Monoxide Detector and Alarm can be interlinked to the above and also has the sealed lithium battery.

Alternatives may be available but should be Certified to EN14604:2005 and LPCB approved

The Law is changing

Currently the Local Authority can make specific alarm systems a condition of a licence but otherwise there is no law specifying requirements. Contrary to what some officers may tell you smokealarms2BS 5839-6:2013 only gives recommendations. They can use HHSRS powers sighting non compliance with the LACORS guidance but this can be appealed.

From October 1st a new law will make a smoke alarm mandatory on every floor of rented accommodation, (subject to Parliamentary ratification) As regards individual flats located on one floor then there will have to be at least one alarm within the flat itself or alternatively provided outside the flat on the same floor of the building, i.e. a communal alarm. The Regulations do not stipulate what kind of alarm is required.

Also from October 1st a carbon monoxide alarm must be provided by the landlord in any room in premises which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation which contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance. This applies to any kind of wood burning stove or an open coal fire.

The landlord will be specifically required to carry out a check to ensure that smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms installed to comply with the Regulations are in proper working order on the day a tenancy begins where it is a new tenancy.

The new legal requirements are a bare minimum and officers may ask for higher standards. We would recommend following most LACORS guidance and, in addition to the above, fitting a carbon monoxide alarm near any boiler that is not room sealed, or where there is not a simple short flue pipe that is checked annually for corrosion.

Though it does not yet cover the use of the new lithium battery alarms the LACORS guidance is still the best source of guidance on fire safety issues and can be used by housing officers in their HHSRS risk assessments.
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Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.

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