BAFE has responded to the consultation put out by the Scottish Government which considers whether there should be stronger requirements for certain types of housing in Scotland for fire and smoke alarms.
BAFE believe that in social rented housing a new minimum standard should be introduced that follow the British Standard for fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings (BS5839).
“BAFE’s ethos is that the best possible fire safety standards should apply to all properties.”
The response goes on to argue that all tenements and flats, regardless of their height, should follow these same British Standards as the absolute minimum requirement.
“Allowing exceptions means that problems will occur and when they do, criticism will focus on why exceptions were permitted in the first place. There should be common minimum specification for installations and the work of installers should be subject to scrutiny and inspection. This implies comprehensive training in installation work.”
BAFE also states that all housing, regardless of tenure should have a common minimum standard based on the current standard applying to private rented properties.
The response continues to endorse the suggestion there should be a maximum age for alarms and also that location of alarms should “be more clearly expressed and be in line with published standards”.
BAFE disagrees with the suggestion of any new standards might require interlinking fire and smoke alarms in different flats in the same building. “Interlinking will cause an upsurge in unwanted fire alarm signals and calls which are already far too high in number. Interlinking contradicts the stay put policy. The stay put policy however only works if proper fire precautions such as fire stops, fire doors, sealing of internal risers, inert cladding, access to extinguishers etc in all common areas and escape routes are in place and properly maintained.”
BAFE’s response concludes by discussing the wider context of the situation:
“BAFE is particularly keen to stress that however welcome improvements are to the specification, installation and maintenance for fire and smoke alarms, these are only a small part of the overall necessary response to improving fire safety.Alarms, sprinklers and evacuation procedures are important but they come into effect after a fire has started.
BAFE stresses the urgent need to improve fire risk assessment across all domestic and commercial building types in Scotland and for that matter in the UK. BAFE believes that prevention is better than cure. There needs to be a requirement rather than just a recommendation that the competence of all fire risk assessors is third party certificated.
This is referenced by both the opinion by Sheriff Lockhart after the Rosepark Nursing Home fire and underscored by the recent report of the Regulatory Review Group. BAFE asks what actions have been taken to meet the recommendation of the RRG report?
BAFE has commented above [in response] on the importance of fire stops, fire doors, sealing of internal risers, inert cladding, access to extinguishers and other prevention measures. BAFE recommends much improved inspection of buildings to ensure the best standards and to help prevent the compromising of fire safety where buildings are substantially altered, modified or improved.
BAFE also wishes to record its support for the regulation of electricians particularly in the context of fires caused by faulty or shoddy installation work by unqualified practitioners.”
An overview of the Consultation on Fire and Smoke Alarms in Scottish Homes can be found on the Scottish Government website: