Statistics just released by the government suggest that the gradual reduction in fire deaths at home over the last two decades has stalled, and according to Gerald Jones, Kidde Business Manager Professional Channels, more needs to be done to alert occupiers early when a fire occurs.

Provisional figures for the period April 2009-March 2010 just released by Communities and Local Government show that almost two-thirds of the 328 fire fatalities over the year occurred in accidental dwelling fires. Fire safety in housing remains one of the most important areas to focus on, said Jones.

Domestic fire deaths have more than halved since the 1980s and much of this reduction can be attributed to the use of smoke alarms, including mandatory alarms for new homes under the Building Regulations. But the trend has levelled out over recent years and the number of fatalities in England in accidental dwelling fires in 2009-2010 was 210, one higher than the previous year.

"Clearly, more needs to be done now to drive down the current level of domestic fire fatalities," said Jones. "Of course, it is essential to replace old smoke alarms at the end of their design life as a non-functioning alarm is worse than none at all. But battery removal - particularly by tenants in rented properties - is also a problem with DC powered alarms. So, responsible landlords are increasingly fitting hard-wired smoke alarms. In fact, these are already mandatory in rented properties in Scotland. Here, integral rechargeable back-up power is preferred rather than removable battery back-up."

"But there is also a case to bring all the national Building Regulations into line with the current Code of Practice. The current Code of Practice for domestic fire alarm systems, BS 5839-6: 2004 recommends interconnected, hard-wired smoke or heat alarms in living rooms and a heat alarm in every kitchen - where most fires start - as well as smoke alarms in circulation areas.

"But in England and Wales, Part B requires smoke alarms just in corridors and heat alarms in only some kitchens. And, as BS 5839-6 points out, this 'might not therefore prevent the death or serious injury of occupants in the room where the fire originates'. Scotland's Domestic Technical Handbook is worse, without any provisions for heat alarms at all. It is only in Northern Ireland and Eire that Building Regulations supporting guidance is fully in line with BS 5839-6." 

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