Smoke alarm 'failure' rate

Almost 40 per cent of battery-powered smoke alarms failed to activate in residential fires in England in the past year – a level that has remained virtually unchanged in nearly a decade, according to LGA analysis of official figures.

Latest figures show a fifth (21 per cent) of mains-powered smoke alarms failed to operate in residential fires in 2018/19 – but this ‘failure rate’ is almost double (38 per cent) for battery-operated alarms, and has stayed between 38 and 40 per cent since 2010/11.

Industry figures show that one in 10 homes does not have a working smoke alarm, while more than a fifth (22 per cent) of households never test their smoke alarm.

Missing or faulty batteries account for a fifth (20 per cent) of battery-operated smoke alarms failing to activate. The main reason for a smoke alarm failing to activate is because the fire does not reach the detector (45 per cent of cases).

The LGA is urging people without a working smoke alarm to buy one and test it regularly to check it is functioning, changing batteries when necessary.

It is also advising people to install more than one detector in their homes, with at least one fitted on the ceiling of every floor.

Cllr Ian Stephens, Chair of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, said: “Smoke alarms are proven life-savers, but these worrying failure rates are a reminder to people to test their smoke alarms regularly and change batteries where necessary.

“Smoke alarm ownership has risen over the years to more than 90 per cent, but this encouraging trend is being dangerously undermined if they don’t activate because of faulty batteries.

“Many fire and rescue services can fit smoke detectors for free as part of a home fire-safety visit.”



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