THE Scottish Government has faced calls from opposition parties and charities to postpone the introduction of new fire alarm rules on February 1 amid concerns about public awareness, affordability and availability of the devices.

In a statement to Holyrood on Wednesday Housing Secretary Shona Robison said ministers will not delay the new regulations (which should have been brought in 12 months earlier but were pushed back because of the pandemic).

She told MSPs the new interlinked system may “save lives” and encouraged home owners to get the devices fitted.

READ MORE: Fire alarm rules: Insurers allay fears over new rules for Scots as deadline looms

Here's what you need to know about the plans.

What are the new requirements?
The change in the law means that by February 1 every home will need to have:

  • One smoke alarm in the room you spend most of the day, usually your living room
  • One smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey, such as hallways and landings
  • One heat alarm in the kitchen

All smoke and heat alarms should be mounted on the ceiling and be interlinked which means if one alarm goes off, they all go off.

For those with carbon-fuelled appliances, such as a boiler, fire, heater or flue, homeowners must also have a carbon monoxide detector. This does not need to be linked to the fire alarms.

Why are the new rules being introduced?

The legislation was introduced in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, which claimed the lives of 72 people. Robison told MSPs the alarms will “support greater fire safety and prevent avoidable death”.

She added: “An interlinked alarm means that when one alarm goes off in one part of the house, the rest also goes off. Which of course means if someone is sleeping in a bedroom away from the kitchen where the fire starts, all the alarms will go off and people are alerted to the danger.”

The National:

A total of 72 people lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017.

Figures released from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service show there were 44 deaths due to house fires in Scotland between 2020-21.

Robison said: "In the four years from 2014 to 2018, for situations where fatalities were recorded, on average, 30% of fires started in the living room and 15% started in the kitchen.

"In 52% of domestic fire incidents, a smoke alarm alerted occupants to the fact that there was a fire, which gave people a greater chance of escape. Interlinked fire and smoke alarms increase the chance of people being alerted more quickly, because they all go off simultaneously, regardless of where the fire starts. That is why we have introduced the same standards for all properties."

How much will it cost?

Robison said the alarms come at an “expected average cost of around £220 and sometimes less”. However, there will be an extra cost associated if a tradesperson is needed to fit the appliances. If you are able-bodied, can climb a ladder and are reasonably practically minded you should be able to fit the devices.

Many people, particularly the elderly and people with disabilities may not be able to fit the devices themselves.

The cost involved will also depend on the size and layout of the home and on how many storeys the property has.

The National:

Housing Secretary Shona Robison

Robison said: "The standard means that, from 1 February, all houses should have interlinked alarms, with one smoke alarm in the living room, one in each hallway and on each landing, a heat alarm in the kitchen and a carbon monoxide detector in each room that has a carbon-fuelled appliance, such as a gas boiler or fire. The alarms will support greater fire safety and prevent avoidable death."

The Scottish Government said that there is no list of approved suppliers or fitters. Both types of alarm can be purchased online or in store from a number of retailers. 

Alarms must comply with the following standards: 

  • Smoke alarms - BS EN14604:2005 
  • Heat alarms - BS 5446-2:2003 
  • Carbon monoxide detector - British Kitemark EN 50291-1 

The cheapest price The National could find was from online retailer SafeLincs which is currently marketing devices at £35.99 each (plus charge for delivery). However, the firm says it has none in stock and the items can't be dispatched until February 28.
We did find availability with retailer Scotland Smoke Alarm which also had a useful question and answer section.

It sells ANKA Interlinked Alarms and has offices in Bathgate and has two types of packs.
One contains two Scottish-legislation-compliant pre-interlinked, 10-year-battery bundles for home-fitting yourself - one for two-storey houses (3 smoke, 1 heat, 1 CO alarms), and the other, for flats/bungalows (2 smoke, 1 heat and 1 CO alarm).

Each alarm comes with a double-sided sticky pad, to ceiling-mount with ease. The "House" bundle costs £149 and to the "Flat" bundle £129.

Are fire alarms readily available?

There have been some shortages impacting on the availability of the alarms.

Robison said she was “aware there have been challenges in meeting this demand exacerbated by global supply shortages of component parts and in the supply of suitable tradespeople to carry out work in people’s homes”.

She said her officials had assured her on Wednesday morning that “fire alarms are currently available for purchase and delivery where the manufacturer has a UK supply chain”.

However, she said “some manufacturers of fire alarms continue to have supply chain issues with imported components which does limit the availability of their alarms for immediate purchase”.

Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour told the chamber than no B&Q store in Edinburgh currently had the alarms in stock.

Robison added that the legislation makes allowance for the “reasonable amount of time needed in this situation”.

Is there any financial help available?

The Scottish Government provided £1.5 million of funding to Care and Repair Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to support those who own their own home who are at high risk of fire or who are elderly or disabled. Care and Repair has dealt with just short of 2,500 inquiries about fire alarms since September last year.

What do I have to do if I rent?
Private landlords should already have interlinked smoke alarms in their homes. If your rented property does not have interlinked alarms, you should speak to your landlord.

If your landlord fails to comply, you have the right to apply to a tribunal.
Social landlords are carrying out a programme of work to make sure interlinked fire alarms are in place.

How will it be enforced and will I face a fine if I don't have them installed?

Local authorities have the duty for ensuring compliance with the new fire safety standards in their local areas.

However, Robison said councils have confirmed they will be taking a “light touch” approach in terms of enforcement. No one will be fined.

“Local authorities will not be knocking at the doors of people’s homes to check whether they have these newly installed fire alarms because we recognise some people will take a bit longer and they will have a reasonable period of time to comply”, she added.

It is not known how many households in Scotland are yet to install the alarms.

The Scottish Government does not currently know how many households in Scotland still need these devices fitted. It will only know this information once the next Scottish Household Survey is published.

Will home insurance be void without alarms?
For households which still fall short of the standards it was reported earlier this month that insurance policies will be invalidated when the new laws come into place.

However, Robison said this is “not the case” but she encouraged anyone who is “unclear” on their policy terms and conditions in relation to the new law to speak to their insurer.

The Scottish Government said insurers have indicated that while they may ask whether your home has working fire alarms, they are “unlikely to ask whether the alarms meet this new standard”.

A spokeswoman from the Association of British Insurers said: “Safety is paramount and we would encourage people to install interlinked alarms so that they can evacuate their home safely in the event of a fire.

“Our members are aware of the new regulations coming into force and are unlikely to invalidate a home insurance claim for existing customers who haven’t yet complied with the new law in Scotland, Anyone who is unclear on their policy terms and conditions should speak to their insurer.”

Do people know about the changes?

The opposition parties have accused the Scottish Government of not communicating the rule changes to homeowners sufficiently in time to get the devices fitted.

Robison told Holyrood that "public awareness of the changes to the regulations is now high".

She added: "Over five weeks in the summer of 2021, the Scottish Government ran an intensive awareness-raising media campaign across television, radio and digital platforms. It reached 95%  of all adults across Scotland, with 85% of them seeing the campaign and its vital public information message at least three times.

"In addition, more than 96,000 printed leaflets have been supplied to libraries across Scotland, we have regularly updated our dedicated website with information and advice, and we distributed an electronic toolkit of resources to key stakeholders." She said research carried out in December 2021 showed that 88% of home owners were aware of the new legislation.