Although most people recognise the importance of smoke and CO alarms, some widespread myths have gained a foothold in consumer understanding of home safety. Adrian Keats at Honeywell’s home safety business debunks the common examples of misinformation that housing associations are often confronted with.
The dreadful events of 2017 have meant that issues surrounding home safety are more important than ever for housing associations. But when it comes to smoke and CO alarms, it’s easy to take them for granted because they are so commonly found in homes.
It’s been a couple of years since the introduction of smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations. These require that at least one smoke alarm is installed on every storey of a rental property which is used as living accommodation, and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room where solid fuel is used. Further changes to these regulations are expected to make CO alarms mandatory for all rented homes later this year.
Nevertheless, between April 2015 and March 2016, the number of fatalities from fires in the home increased by 17.4 per cent. Furthermore, recent figures from the Department of Health show that there are 4,000 who attend A&E for treatment for CO poisoning each year in England - which can often lead to lasting neurological damage.
It’s clear that more work needs to be done on boosting consumer understanding. But part of the problem is a range of myths that have pervaded the industry and prevented the correct advice from being communicated.
With home safety so high on the agenda for housing associations across the country we offer the following myth busting tips:
1. CO colour change spot detectors aren’t safe
Carbon monoxide spot detectors are supposed to detect the presence of dangerous levels of CO in the atmosphere, resulting in the circular area in the centre of the detector changing colour. This might seem like a handy, easy to install alternative to a CO alarm, but this really is not the case.
This detection mechanism relies purely on someone actually noticing the change in colour because there is no audible alarm. Also, they have a limited lifespan of a few months, so can be a maintenance headache for busy social landlords. They are also not approved to any CO alarm performance standards so cannot be relied upon.
An approved and kitemarked audible alarm should always be the core element of any CO alert system. That way, whether a tenant is asleep, in the shower or watching TV on the sofa, they will always know as soon as a leak occurs.
2. Site location ensures alarms only go off in an emergency
It is important that individual components are sited correctly. For example, when it comes to smoke alarms, these should be installed in hallways, landings, lounges and bedrooms but not in kitchens or garages, where a heat alarm would be required.
Smoke and heat alarms should be as central as possible, whether this is in an entrance hall or a room. The alarm should also be at least 30 centimetres (12 inches) away from any wall or light fitting. There should be a minimum of one smoke alarm on each floor of the home, and ideally, a unit should be situated within 1.5 metres of the entrance to all habitable rooms.
3. Sealed units are safest
Home safety equipment is vitally important, especially for large housing associations that manage thousands of properties. Therefore, making the right choice of device can save time and money because not all smoke and CO alarms are the same.
Units which have permanent, sealed in batteries should be considered as a better option. This avoids the possibility of social housing tenants removing or failing to replace the batteries in their units where the batteries are accessible. With sealed units, the device remains intact and functional for the whole of its operational life, putting minds at rest.
Honeywell’s X Series smoke and CO alarms are all interconnectable. The smoke alarms include additional clear visual indicators when in alarm and the CO alarms can include a visual message on the unit when in alarm that will help inform residents what they should do in the case of a carbon monoxide leak. All of the alarms come with a sealed battery which lasts up to 10 years, and they are guaranteed for the lifetime of the device.