Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information requests of 54 fire services revealed that more than 80% of buildings now have smoke alarms fitted, but nearly half of fire deaths in 2010 occured in a property that had a working smoke alarm.

Responding to the investigation, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, said: "We fully support the greater use of smoke alarms but it is a complete myth that people don't die in fires if there is a smoke alarm fitted and working. Smoke alarms also have a high failure rate, when they don't operate, because people do things like take the batteries out or they fail for technical reasons. 

"Smoke alarms help save lives and reduce injuries. But they don't prevent fires, they don't put them out and they don't rescue you.

"It is important to understand there is still a risk to life when you do have them fitted. It's critical you have an escape plan so you know how to get you and your family out if you can.

"Smoke alarms are not and cannot be a replacement for firefighters. Too many fire services have used the fitting of smoke alarms to justify cuts to their local fire service, and these figures show why that is very wrong.

"We have highlighted for the last two years our concerns about increasing delays in the speed of fire service response times - how quickly we can get to an emergency. There is no doubt people are dying as a result of these delays, which are happening because of cuts in the service.

"When a working smoke alarm gives an early alert to a fire it gives firefighters a better chance of rescuing those who are trapped. That has been undermined by slower response times which do reduce your chances of survival or limiting injuries

"There has been a large drop in the number of fire deaths in the last 25 years. This is as much to do with better prevention, better building design and safer and less flammable furniture as it is with smoke alarms and fire service rescues.

"It is critical to remember that firefighters rescue over 7,000 people every year from fires. Smoke alarms cannot do that."


Posted: 14.28pm, 21.06.11,