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Publication - Research Publication

Fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes consultation: analysis of responses

Published: 18 Mar 2018
Part of:
Housing, Public safety and emergencies, Research
ISBN:
9781788516976

Analysis of written responses to a consultation on fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes.

67 page PDF

710.4kB

67 page PDF

710.4kB

Contents
Fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes consultation: analysis of responses
Options to Extend Standards

67 page PDF

710.4kB

Options to Extend Standards

16. The consultation document stated the Scottish Government's view that the standard currently applied to private rented housing represents current best practice and that, therefore, the most appropriate option to improve standards for fire and smoke alarms is to extend this standard to all tenures.

17. The document examined the following options:

  • Applying a new standard to social rented housing.
  • Applying a standard to flats, irrespective of tenure.
  • Applying a standard to flats in high-rise buildings, irrespective of tenure.
  • Applying a standard to all housing, irrespective of tenure.

Social Housing

Q1: Do you think that there should be a new minimum standard for fire and smoke detectors in social rented housing?

Table 3: Question 1

Yes No Don't know No reply
Housing Association (17) 16 - - 1
Local Authority (13) 13 - - -
Lettings / residential lettings / property management (7) 4 - 2 1
Residents association / tenant participation (7) 7 - - -
Fire risk / Safety consultant (6) 6 - - -
Other ( e.g. charities / health / professional organisations / manufacturer) (13) 11 - - 2
Individuals (59) 54 1 1 3
Total (122) 111 1 3 7

18. As shown in Table 3, a large majority of respondents (111) agreed that there should be a new minimum standard for fire and smoke detectors in social rented housing; one respondent – an individual – disagreed with this proposal.

19. Respondents were invited to explain their answer and 99 took the opportunity to comment. Most commented that there should be a unified standard across all types of tenancy, with all properties adhering to the same regulations. A small number of respondents outlined specific benefits this would bring, such as offering a safe environment for all tenants, consistency across all forms of tenure or simply that it would help save lives.

20. A small number of respondents commented that all new and refurbished homes should adhere to the minimum standard of LD2 (see appendix 2), and that the standards for new build properties should be adopted across all tenure types in Scotland. There were also some comments that the Scottish Housing Quality Standard ( SHQS) is an inadequate minimum standard or that the current SHQS is not sufficient for tenant safety. A small number also commented that the current social housing standard is below the minimum protection detailed in British standards.

21. There were also a small number of comments on the need to consider the vulnerability of many within the social rented sector and the need for these individuals to be protected by legislation.

22. Some respondents made specific reference to technology, with a small number noting that current smoke detectors are based on old technology and there is a need to ensure smart smoke detectors are installed in properties. A small number of individuals expressed the need for hard-wired smoke detectors to be standard in all accommodation as it would prevent batteries from being removed.

23. That said, a small number of respondents – all within housing associations – noted a preference for sealed battery-operated alarms as these are easier and cheaper to fit and impact less on tenants during installation.

24. A number of respondents – mostly organisations – made some form of qualifying statement, primarily in relation to the need to consider the cost of implementation and the financial pressures and resourcing implications this could place on all landlords. There were also some concerns over the possible timescales for meeting the new standard and the need to ensure that enough time is allowed for implementation.

25. There was also a suggestion from two individuals that detectors need to be installed in elevators and bin areas.

26. All respondents answering 'yes' to Question 1 (whether there should be a new minimum standard for fire and smoke detectors in social rented housing) were then asked whether this should be based on the standard currently applying to private rented property. However, as some of those who gave answers other than 'yes' to Question 1 also answered Question 1a, the following table shows responses from all respondents.

Q1a: If yes, do you think this should be based on the standard currently applying to private rented property?

Table 4: Question 1a

Yes No Don't know No reply
Housing Association (17) 11 4 - 2
Local Authority (13) 12 - 1 -
Lettings / residential lettings / property management (7) 2 2 1 2
Residents association / tenant participation (7) 7 - - -
Fire risk / Safety consultant (6) 5 1 - -
Other ( e.g. charities / health / professional organisations / manufacturer) (13) 11 - - 2
Individuals (59) 47 6 1 5
Total (122) 95 13 3 11

27. As Table 4 demonstrates, of those who replied to this question, there was majority support for the new minimum standard to be based on the standard currently applying to private rented property, with 95 agreeing and 13 disagreeing with this proposal.

28. Of the 76 respondents providing additional commentary to this question over half, across all sub-groups, agreed that all properties should be equally protected to ensure consistency and prevent any indirect discrimination. As one local authority noted:

"The minimum standard set for the private rented sector is acknowledged as the most robust current standard and therefore should be the basis for applying a new minimum standard for all tenures, including social rented housing . "

29. Small numbers of respondents also commented that this would offer a good level of protection and offer a good standard for the sector, or that vulnerable people living in social housing should be treated exactly as others in the private rented sector. A small number of respondents noted that this same standard should also apply to the owner occupied sector.

30. Once again, a small number of respondents referred specifically to technology, with a preference from some to allow landlords to use long life sealed interlinked battery alarms in preference to mains-wired alarms. One housing association suggested that there should be an option of hybrid systems based on a mixture of mains-powered and battery-powered or radio frequency alarms. A respondent within a local authority suggested that there should also be consideration of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide alarms in new build homes, linked to heat and smoke alarms.

31. A small number of respondents made reference to the placement of alarms, with one housing association respondent suggesting they should be in all circulation spaces in each storey and kitchen but not in living rooms; an individual suggested smoke alarms in bedrooms and another housing association respondent suggested that alarms should cover all risk areas but that they do not need to be placed in all rooms.

32. As at the previous question, a small number of respondents offered some form of qualifying commentary, primarily due to concerns over timescales for implementation, or that there needs to be sufficient resources in place for implementation. Some of these respondents suggested there should be an element of flexibility introduced so that fire risk assessors can assess each building to determine what measures are needed. One respondent in the fire risk / safety consultant sub-group suggested that the Scottish Government should provide appropriate funding and set an end date for the implementation process.

33. Those who did not answer 'yes' to Question 1 (whether there should be a new minimum standard for fire and smoke detectors in social rented housing) were asked whether they thought that some other standard should apply to social rented housing.

Q1b: Alternatively, do you think that some other standard should apply to social rented housing? If so, please give details.

34. Sixty respondents, across all groups and regardless of the answer they gave at Question 1, opted to provide a response to this question, the majority of whom simply gave an answer of 'no'. Many of these reiterated points made at earlier questions. A small number of these noted the same standard should apply to all tenures and a small number suggested the highest standards should be put in place.

35. Some respondents – mostly organisations – provided suggestions for the standard. Only one of these was made by more than one respondent: that, as a minimum, the standard should be in line with BS5839-6:2013 (LD3 Grade F) [2] (suggested by 2 respondents).

36. The following suggestions were each made by one respondent:

  • The current private rented sector standard but with enhanced provision based on a risk assessment.
  • Smoke detectors fitted in bathrooms.
  • Hard-wired smoke detectors to be mandatory.
  • All non-circulation space areas to have a minimum of a sealed unit battery-powered radio-linked alarm with a ten year lifespan.
  • Only circulation space alarms should be mains connected.
  • LD2 system should be employed (see appendix 2).
  • An option to use battery alarms when upgrading existing properties.
  • Only alarms in circulation spaces should be mains connected

37. A small number of individuals provided some qualifying commentary and this included the following, each made by one respondent:

  • One size will not fit all.
  • Sprinklers should be fitted in all high rise buildings.
  • High rise occupancy should be reviewed in any building of more than three storeys.
  • No current repairing standard covers the main risk areas and escape routes.
  • The standards suggested in the consultation paper are adequate but there will need to be regular testing and maintenance of systems.

Tenements and Flats

Q2: Do you think that individual flats should all be subject to the same minimum standards, regardless of tenure, in all tenements and blocks, regardless of height?

Table 5: Question 2

Yes No Don't know No reply
Housing Association (17) 10 5 1 1
Local Authority (13) 10 2 1 -
Lettings / residential lettings / property management (7) 5 1 - 1
Residents association / tenant participation (7) 7 - - -
Fire risk / Safety consultant (6) 5 1 - -
Other ( e.g. charities / health / professional organisations / manufacturer) (13) 10 - 1 2
Individuals (59) 46 10 2 1
Total (122) 93 19 5 5

38. As shown in Table 5, a large majority of respondents agreed that individual flats should all be subject to the same minimum standards, regardless of tenure, in all tenements and blocks, regardless of height; 93 agreed and 19 disagreed.

39. Respondents were invited to explain their answer and 92 did so. A large majority of these noted the need for all homes to have the same standard of fire safety, regardless of tenure type or ownership. A small number also noted that fire safety is a shared responsibility and that a shared minimum standard would reflect the common interest of all tenants. A similar proportion also noted that the same standard should apply to owner occupied properties.

40. Typical responses to this question were:

"Fire does not discriminate from each address, therefore a standard approach for all is required" (residents association / tenant participation).

" There is no justification for setting different safety standards for flats on different floors. This would just lead to confusion, and it is simpler to administer a system where a single standard applies" (individual).

41. Of the small number of respondents who felt that there should be different standards applied according to the height of a building, the most common reason given was that the risk is greater in higher properties so there should be a focus on these. A small number of respondents specified the need for a different minimum standard in properties above specific heights, with one or two referring to tenements or blocks of flats above two storeys, others above 4 storeys and some citing a height of 18 metres. One respondent from a housing association noted that flats in tower blocks should be treated differently to tenements as tenements can be reached by ladder; a respondent in the lettings agency / residential lettings / property management sub-group noted that high blocks with only one staircase should have tighter controls and higher standards than other types of property.

42. A small number of respondents made some form of qualifying statement, most notably in reference to the difficulties of implementation and enforcement in owner occupied properties. A small number of respondents noted the need to consider additional measures such as the building type or the ease of escape, or to consider the type of measures needed for those with specific medical conditions.

43. A small number of individuals noted the need to also give consideration to other technology such as fire resistant doors, emergency lighting or clear instructions for residents.

44. One respondent in the fire risk / safety consultant sub-group also referred to the need for a minimum standard for electrical safety to be common across all types of tenure.

Q2a: Alternatively, do you think that individual flats should all be subject to the same minimum standards, regardless of tenure, only within tenements and blocks higher than 18 metres?

Table 6: Question 2a

Yes No Don't know No reply
Housing Association (17) 4 8 2 3
Local Authority (13) 1 9 - 3
Lettings / residential lettings / property management (7) 1 3 - 3
Residents association / tenant participation (7) - 6 - 1
Fire risk / Safety consultant (6) - 5 - 1
Other ( e.g. charities / health / professional organisations / manufacturer) (13) - 9 1 3
Individuals (59) 11 41 3 4
Total (122) 17 81 6 18

45. As Table 6 demonstrates, a large majority of respondents (81) across all sub-groups disagreed that individual flats should all be subject to the same minimum standards, regardless of tenure, only within tenements and blocks higher than 18 metres; 17 respondents – primarily individuals – agreed.

46. Respondents were invited to explain their answer and 52, across all sub-groups, took the opportunity to comment. A majority of these noted that all properties should be protected by a new minimum standard, that all properties should have the same safety standards or that shared risk is present in all tenements and blocks of flats, regardless of their height. A small number of respondents also commented that every tenant should have the same level of safety or that introduction of the same minimum standard would reduce any discrimination.

47. A small number of respondents felt that buildings themselves are more important than the height of a building, and noted the need to consider the building construction, maintenance and engineering and the potential risk of fire spreading. One housing association noted that fire spread in high rise buildings is limited because of the building structure and the associated compartmentalisation of the structure. Two respondents felt that there may be instances where low buildings present a greater fire risk.

48. A small number of respondents also noted that the height of a building is less relevant than the need to give occupants early warning or the capacity to escape the building in the case of fire, with comments that a common standard, regardless of tenure, would increase the opportunity for early warning.

49. A small number of respondents, while supportive of the same minimum standards for individual flats, felt there might also be a need for some additional special measures for buildings higher than 18 metres.

50. A small number of individuals disagreed with the height of 18 metres and suggested alternative heights; these included 10 metres or more or four storeys.

51. A small number of respondents agreed that individual flats should all be subject to the same minimum standards, regardless of tenure, only within tenements and blocks higher than 18 metres. The key reason given was that high rise buildings present more risks, with suggestions for building-wide alarms, escape routes, emergency lighting in stairwells and so on. One housing association respondent suggested a need for a separate standard to be developed for high rise buildings.

Q2b: If you are in favour of a standard for flats, whether in all buildings or only those over 18 metres tall, do you think this should be based on the standard currently applying to private rented property?

Table 7: Question 2b

Yes No Don't know No reply
Housing Association (17) 12 3 - 2
Local Authority (13) 11 - 1 1
Lettings / residential lettings / property management (7) 3 2 1 1
Residents association / tenant participation (7) 5 1 - 1
Fire risk / Safety consultant (6) 4 1 - 1
Other ( e.g. charities / health / professional organisations / manufacturer) (13) 9 1 1 2
Individuals (59) 41 9 6 3
Total (122) 85 17 9 11

52. As shown in Table 7, there was majority support for this proposal, with 85, across all sub-groups, agreeing and 17 respondents – primarily individuals – disagreeing.

53. Seventy-five respondents provided additional commentary to this question, with around half of these noting that all individuals should be provided with the same level of protection, with one local authority respondent noting that this consistency would provide public assurance and simplify the landscape across Scotland.

54. That said, there were some qualifying comments made by respondents, with some noting that there is a need for additional measures – such as sprinkler systems or fire doors – within high rise blocks.

55. A small number of respondents commented that a standard higher than that of the PRS was needed or that the standard should be the same as that applied to new builds. A very small number of respondents commented on the need for a separate standard specifically for flatted buildings. For example, one individual noted that there is a need to consider the risk from common parts of the building that would not be covered under the current standard.

56. A small number of respondents made specific reference to technology. The key comment was that there should be an option to upgrade using battery alarms and not hard wired alarms. Other specific mentions by one or two respondents included the need for:

  • Mains with battery backup smoke alarms on each floor as a minimum standard.
  • The linking of each flat alarm to the common staircase route for early warning.
  • A minimum of LD2 standard (see appendix 2).

57. There were concerns noted by a small number of respondents, with some referring to the difficulties of enforcement of a new standard, and some specifically citing enforcement in owner occupied properties.

58. A small number of respondents felt there is a need for more research and evaluation before a new standard can be introduced; and that the benefits and costs of this need to be fully understood.

Q2c: Alternatively, do you think that some other standard should apply? If so, please give details.

59. Fifty-two respondents, across all sub-groups, provided commentary in response to this question, with around half of these simply noting that some other standard should not apply. Many responses to this question also echoed those given to the previous questions.

60. A small number of respondents noted the need to have the new build standard across all tenures, although a respondent in the fire risk / safety consultant sub-group suggested there is a need for a standard specifically for flatted buildings rather than a generic standard; and an individual suggested the need for the standard to be revised to ensure all aspects of fire safety are covered.

61. As at previous questions, a small number of respondents referred to specific technology they felt should be applied and this included linking flat alarms to the common stair to allow for early detection of a fire, and having sprinkler systems in high rise blocks and / or smoke detectors in all rooms.

62. A small number of respondents also commented on the need to use experts to devise a standard(s) or the need to conduct analysis to assess the impact of different standards in flatted accommodation.

All Housing

Q3: Do you think that there should be a common new minimum standard for fire and smoke detectors in all housing, regardless of tenure?

Table 8: Question 3

Yes No Don't know No reply
Housing Association (17) 14 1 1 1
Local Authority (13) 12 - 1 -
Lettings / residential lettings / property management (7) 6 - - 1
Residents association / tenant participation (7) 7 - - -
Fire risk / Safety consultant (6) 4 1 1 -
Other ( e.g. charities / health / professional organisations / manufacturer) (13) 10 1 1 1
Individuals (59) 41 12 4 2
Total (122) 94 15 8 5

63. As Table 8 demonstrates, a large majority of respondents (94) agreed there should be a common new minimum standard for fire and smoke detectors in all housing, regardless of tenure, with 15, mostly individuals, disagreeing.

64. Respondents were invited to explain their answer and 87, across all sub-groups, took the opportunity to comment, with over half of these reiterating their support for the proposition. Their reasons included responses along the lines that all properties should be safe for occupants, that tenure is not relevant to occupant risk and so on. The following quotations illustrate this point.

Fire does not distinguish its occupants." ( Lettings / residential lettings / property management)

"Incidents of fire are not tenure specific and so a common standard across all housing will provide the best level of detection for all building occupiers. As many buildings have mixed tenure properties within the one block, a common standard ensures the same level of protection is provided in each property. (Housing Association)

65. That said, a respondent in the local authority group noted the need to ensure that residents understand and know how to avoid the risk of fire. An organisation in the 'other' sub-group suggested that the Scottish Government needs a longer term ambition for this, similar to that for achieving minimum energy performance standards for all housing.

66. A small number of respondents commented specifically on the standard that would be appropriate, for example a need for the same standard as that currently applied to the private rented sector or for new build properties. Two individuals noted that all properties should be protected to the highest standard using Smart technology.

67. While there was a high level of support for a common new minimum standard for fire and smoke detectors in all housing, regardless of tenure, there were some suggestions that different types of property need different standards.

68. The key tenure identified by respondents as being excluded from this standard was owner occupiers (cited mainly by respondents in the fire risk / safety consultant sub-group and individuals); there were also some suggestions that owner occupiers should be given grant assistance if they are to be included in a new minimum standard. That said, there were also a small number of references to the high proportion of pensioners living in owner occupied homes who would need more than a minimum standard of safety due to their increased vulnerability. A small number of respondents also identified the need to have a different standard for those in vulnerable communities such as care homes where there would be different fire risks to take into account.

69. Other types of accommodation where respondents suggested the new minimum standard should apply were:

  • Rented properties only.
  • All new build.
  • Mixed tenure blocks.
  • In flatted housing where there is a risk to others.
  • Refurbished properties.

70. Some respondents highlighted concerns they had over the introduction of a common minimum standard. The key concern related to the owner occupier sector where it was felt enforcement would be difficult; there were suggestions that enforcement could be at point of sale or at any time when refurbishment was being undertaken.

71. A small number of respondents referred to use of the Tolerable Standard as a means of enforcing a new minimum standard, although it was felt that this would be difficult to enforce and could mean that it would make a large number of homes in Scotland sub-tolerable. There were comments that it would be unrealistic to condemn a house as unsuitable for living accommodation due simply to a lack of smoke detectors.

Q3a: If yes, do you think this should be based on the standard currently applying to private rented property?

Table 9: Question 3a

Yes No Don't know No reply
Housing Association (17) 12 3 - 2
Local Authority (13) 11 - 1 1
Lettings / residential lettings / property management (7) 3 2 1 1
Residents association / tenant participation (7) 6 1 - -
Fire risk / Safety consultant (6) 4 1 - 1
Other ( e.g. charities / health / professional organisations / manufacturer) (13) 7 2 1 3
Individuals (59) 35 14 5 5
Total (122) 78 23 8 13

72. As shown in Table 9, a majority of respondents (78), across all sub-groups, agreed that this should be based on the standard currently applied to private rented property; 23 respondents, mostly individuals, disagreed.

73. Fifty-eight respondents provided additional commentary in support of their response to this question, with a significant number noting this is a good minimum standard or that this adequately covers fire safety risks.

74. A small number of individual respondents noted that this should only be a minimum and some noted the need for a standard higher than that being proposed. Comments from these respondents included that the current private rented sector standard is not robust enough or that further additions such as fire suppression systems needed greater consideration or that carbon monoxide detectors are needed in all properties with fuel-based appliances.

75. Once again, there was some reference to the owner occupied sector specifically, with a small number of respondents noting that this standard should not apply to this sector, with comments that it would be too onerous or too costly for owners. There was also reference to the difficulties of enforcing this in the owner occupied sector.

76. A small number of respondents made suggestions for specific technology to be adopted under a new minimum standard and these included:

  • A minimum of LD2 in every home (see appendix 2).
  • Long-life, battery-operated interlinked alarm, with regular checks.
  • Mains powered alarms.

77. One individual provided a link to research undertaken by Dundee University into fire and smoke alarms [3] .

Q3b: Alternatively, do you think that some other standard should apply? If so, please give details.

Table 10: Question 3b

Yes No Don't know No reply
Housing Association (17) 4 7 2 4
Local Authority (13) - 9 1 3
Lettings / residential lettings / property management (7) 2 1 1 3
Residents association / tenant participation (7) 2 4 - 1
Fire risk / Safety consultant (6) - 3 - 3
Other ( e.g. charities / health / professional organisations / manufacturer) (13) 1 6 2 4
Individuals (59) 15 32 3 9
Total (122) 24 62 9 27

78. As Table 10 shows, a majority of those who responded did not agree that some other standard should apply (62 disagreed compared to 24 who agreed).

79. Twenty six respondents provided additional commentary to this question; mostly echoing comments made at the two previous questions.

80. A small number of respondents commented that the highest standard possible should be rolled out; there were single mentions of the private rented sector standard, the new build standard or that social and private rental should be subject to the same minimum standard. Once again, there was comment from a small number of respondents that the statutory minimum standard should not be applied to the owner occupied sector.

81. Small numbers of respondents also referred to specific types of technology they felt should be used. These included:

  • Heat and smoke alarms with long-life battery-powered linked alarms.
  • 10 year battery alarms.
  • Approved long-life unwired sealed smoke and heat detectors.

82. There were a small number of mentions of the need for further analysis on the effectiveness of different standards and alarms. Again, the same respondent as at the previous question referred to the research conducted by Dundee University.


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