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Safety warning amid smoke alarm 'failure' rate

Credit: PA

Almost 40 per cent of battery-powered smoke alarms in England failed to activate in fires, authorities have warned.

Latest figures also show 21% of mains-powered smoke alarms failed to operate in fires.

Industry statistics show that more than a fifth of households never test their smoke alarm and one in 10 homes do not even have a smoke alarm.

The figures have prompted the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents over 370 councils and fire authorities in England and Wales, to issue a statement urging people to buy and regularly test their smoke alarms.

Council bosses are advising people to have more than one smoke detector in their properties, with at least one on each floor because the main reason for a smoke detector failing to activate is due to the fire not reaching the device.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by fuels not burning properly. Credit: PA

The LGA is also reminding people check their fuel-burning appliances such as boilers, gas fires and cookers are in good working order and properly serviced, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

The warning marks Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month with latest industry figures showing there were 15 accidental deaths and 135 people admitted to hospital in the UK in 2015/16, due to carbon monoxide poisoning .

Carbon monoxide poisoning – dubbed the “silent killer” because it is invisible to the human senses – is caused by fuels not burning properly.

The gas can build up in any fuel-burning appliances that are not properly maintained, or where chimneys or flues are blocked.

Chair of the LGA’s Fire Service Management Committee, Councillor Ian Stephens, said: “Smoke alarms are proven life-savers, but these worrying ‘failure’ rates should serve as a stark reminder to people to test their smoke alarms regularly and change batteries where necessary.

“Residential fires generally peak in the colder winter months when people spend more time using heaters, open fires, and cooking hot food, so anyone without a smoke alarm should buy and fit one as a matter of urgency. In particular, those in private rented accommodation should ensure that their landlord has installed and tested smoke alarms in their property, as required under legislation.

“People also need to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide which is a highly poisonous gas that has no colour, taste or smell and can build up in faulty boilers, gas fires and cookers.

“Not only should all fuel-burning appliances be checked and serviced to ensure they are safe, and that chimneys or flues are free from blockages, but we would encourage people to buy and install a carbon monoxide detector in their homes for peace of mind.

“Many fire and rescue services can fit smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for free as part of a home fire safety visit. Anyone without these alarms in their homes should buy them and test them regularly as they may save their life.”