Smoke Alarms

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15 May 2014

We know that house fires in which a smoke detector raises the alarm are discovered more rapidly and lead to fewer casualties. The 12% of properties overall that do not have a smoke alarm account for approximately 40% of fire fatalities, a disproportionately large and tragic figure.

Official statistics unsurprisingly show that fatality rates in dwelling fires in which smoke alarms raised the alarm are lower than those in which smoke alarms are absent. They also reveal that people in the privately rented sector are more likely to live in a property without an alarm than in any other form of housing tenure.

Smoke alarms can be bought in England for as little as £5 and, while the financial cost of a smoke alarm is minimal, there are huge human costs and economic consequences to house fires.

I would like to see the mandatory installation of smoke alarms in the private rented sector. The Government gave itself the power to mandate smoke alarms in privately rented homes in the Energy Act 2013 but it has failed to act.

The House of Commons voted overwhelmingly in favour of a Ten Minute Rule Bill to make smoke alarms mandatory in the private rented sector. Government ministers abstained and it remains to be seen whether they will now be forced into taking the action that is needed.