Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London, in which 71 people lost their lives, the Scottish Government established a Ministerial Working Group to oversee a review of building and fire safety regulatory frameworks, in order to help ensure that people are safe in Scotland's buildings and to provide reassurance to residents and communities about their safety.
As part of this work, the Ministerial Working Group launched the Consultation on Fire and Smoke Alarms in Scottish Homes on 8 September 2017. The consultation sought views on potential changes to standards required for fire and smoke alarms in domestic properties in Scotland, and closed on 1 December 2017  .
In total, there were 122 replies to the consultation, of which 63 were from organisations (broken down as below) and 59 were from individuals.
Table 1: Respondent Groups
|Lettings / residential lettings / property management||7|
|Residents association / tenant participation||7|
|Fire risk / Safety consultant||6|
|Other ( e.g. charities / health / professional organisations / manufacturer)||13|
A number of key themes were evident across questions as well as across respondent groups and these are summarised below.
- The need for the same high standard across all housing sectors regardless of tenure. While there is support for the standards currently applied in the private rented sector ( PRS) and new build domestic properties, there are some concerns that there should be a higher standard than this, particularly for vulnerable groups of people or for individuals living in buildings with a higher risk factor.
- The need for fire risk assessments for all high rise domestic buildings or risk assessments to identify residents at a greater risk of fire.
- The need for careful consideration of the timescales (including planning, procurement and implementation) and costs of compliance. These are particularly important for:
- social landlords who may have a large number of properties and who would want to align installation and maintenance with their regular maintenance cycles;
- owner occupiers who may be elderly, vulnerable or living on low incomes;
- other vulnerable groups such as those in care homes.
- The need to consider financial incentives such as grants, loans or subsidies.
- The difficulties in monitoring and enforcing a new minimum standard in the owner occupied sector.
- The need for education / advertising campaigns to help raise awareness of issues in relation to fire safety.
The following paragraphs summarise the main findings from each of the consultation questions.
Main Findings: Options to Extend Standards
Social Housing (Q1, Q1a, Q1b)
A large majority of respondents agreed that there should be a new minimum standard for fire and smoke detectors in social rented housing. The key theme emerging was of a need for a unified standard across all types of tenancy, with all properties adhering to the same regulations. A number of respondents qualified their answer, primarily in relation to the need to consider the cost of implementation and the financial pressures and resourcing implications this could place on landlords.
There was majority support for the new minimum standard to be based on the standard currently applying to private rented property. A key theme was that all properties should be equally protected to ensure consistency and prevent any indirect discrimination.
Tenements and Flats (Q2, Q2a, Q2b, Q2c)
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. A large majority of those who commented saw the need for all homes to have the same standard of fire safety, regardless of tenure type or ownership.
A large majority of respondents 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. A majority of those who commented thought 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.
There was majority support for a standard based on the standard currently applying to private rented property. A key theme, once again, was that all individuals should be provided with the same level of protection. Qualifying comments included that there is a need for additional measures, such as sprinkler systems or fire doors, within high rise blocks.
All Housing (Q3, 3a, 3b)
A large majority of respondents agreed there should be a common new minimum standard for fire and smoke detectors in all housing, regardless of tenure. The main reasons given for agreement were that all properties should be safe for occupants or that tenure is not relevant to occupant risk. While there was a high level of support for a common new minimum standard, there were some suggestions that different types of property need different standards.
A majority of respondents agreed that a common new minimum standard should be based on the standard currently applied to private rented property. Primarily because this is perceived to be a good minimum standard, or that this adequately covers fire safety risks.
A majority of those who responded did not agree that some other standard should apply.
A key concern throughout this section related to the owner occupied sector where it was felt enforcement or monitoring would be difficult; there were suggestions that enforcement could be at point of sale or at any time when refurbishment was being undertaken.
Main Findings: Changes to the Minimum Standard
Common Alarms (Q4)
A majority of respondents disagreed that any new standards should require fire and smoke alarms to be interlinked in different flats in the same building. The main theme in responses from almost all of those who answered 'no' related to a range of potential issues that could be caused by recurring false alarms.
Common Area Alarms (Q5)
The largest proportion of respondents agreed that if a new minimum cross-tenure standard is introduced, this should require fire and smoke detectors in common areas, although a significant number of respondents disagreed or gave a response of 'don't know'.
Battery Powered Alarms (Q6, Q6a)
A majority of respondents agreed that it would be acceptable to specify battery alarms in new standards, provided these meet the minimum criteria.
A main theme in comments from those agreeing was that this offers a simpler and more economical route to safety. Many respondents, regardless of whether they agreed or disagreed, queried how this would be monitored and enforced. A number of those who supported the proposed change commented on technological advances that have been made and the need for guidance to be updated in line with those developments.
Maximum Age for Alarms (Q7)
There was majority support for a minimum standard to specify a maximum age for alarms. A key theme was that there is a need for a common standard so as to remove any confusion, that this is common sense, or that the introduction of a maximum age will ensure alarms are replaced regularly and remain effective.
Of those who commented on the question of whether the maximum age should be 10 years, over half of these simply agreed that the maximum age should be 10 years, while smaller numbers of respondents suggested alternative timescales or felt the maximum age should be dependent upon the manufacturer's guidance.
Location of Alarms (Q8)
Views were relatively split as to whether there should be any change to the rules on the location of alarms in the minimum standard, with 43 in support compared to 60 opposed; 19 said 'don't know' or did not reply.
A number of respondents made suggestions for additional rooms into which an alarm should be placed, with bedrooms receiving the most suggestions.
A number of respondents saw a need for specialist advice particularly from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service ( SFRS).
Of the respondents disagreeing that there should be any change to the rules on the location of alarms in the minimum standard, many felt that the present rules on the location of alarms are suitable and do not need to be changed.
Other Changes (Q9)
Views were split as to whether there should be any other changes considered for any new standard for social landlords and owner occupiers.
More respondents disagreed that there should be any other changes considered for the existing standard for private rented housing than agreed. Themes from those who commented further included a need for the same standard across all types of tenure or comments that existing standards are adequate for the private rented sector.
Main Findings: Costs, Timescale and Compliance
Estimate of the Cost of Alarms (Q10a, Q10b)
A majority agreed it is reasonable for home owners to pay for the work needed to comply with a new minimum standard for fire and smoke alarms. While there was general support, a number of respondents raised concerns over costs, with some suggesting the Scottish Government should take responsibility for installation costs, and others suggesting grants, subsidies or loans to help cover the costs of installation.
A large majority of respondents agreed that it is reasonable for social landlords to pay for the work needed for their properties to comply with a new minimum standard for fire and smoke alarms.
Timescales (Q11a, Q11b)
A majority of respondents agreed that a one year timescale for installing additional battery alarms is reasonable. The key comments made by those who agreed with the proposal was that this would be an adequate timescale, that it would be relatively easy to install additional battery alarms, or that fire safety should be a priority. Of the respondents who disagreed with this proposal, a key comment was in relation to the logistical and financial challenges that would be presented by such a short timescale.
A majority of respondents felt the proposal that a two year timescale for installing additional mains wired alarms is reasonable.
A large majority of respondents were in favour of a timetable that is the same for both owner occupiers and social landlords. The key comment emerging from those in agreement with this proposal was that there is a need to ensure the safety of all and that this would provide a level playing field.
Compliance in Social Housing (Q13, Q13a)
While a greater number of respondents agreed than disagreed that existing enforcement routes are sufficient for the social housing sector, a significant number said 'don't know' or did not reply. Of those commenting, many reiterated that the existing enforcement route is sufficient or said that it is established as the primary route for assessing condition and services quality in the social housing sector.
Compliance in Owner Occupied Housing (Q14)
Many of those offering their views on the most effective approaches to encouraging compliance with a minimum standard for fire and smoke alarms in the owner occupied sector, voiced support for the various measures outlined in the consultation paper, with evidence of compliance at point of sale being the most popular measure. There were, however, some queries over whether this could be binding or comments that it would take a long time to ensure there are alarms in all owner occupied properties if there is reliance on this approach.
A number of respondents commented specifically on enforcement of the minimum standard, with many noting the challenges of enforcement and the need for an enforcement regime.
Main Findings: Wider context (Q15)
Many of those who commented on whether anything else should be included for consideration in future work, reiterated measures and approaches that were outlined in the consultation paper.
Some respondents referred to the need for additional standards for higher risk individuals such as those with a disability, individuals in sheltered housing, retirement homes or care homes. There were some calls for guidance on fire safety and fire prevention, or for an advertising campaign to highlight relevant fire safety issues.
Main Findings: Carbon Monoxide Detectors (Q16)
A large majority of respondents were supportive of a new minimum standard for carbon monoxide detectors in both social rented housing and owner occupied housing.
Impact Assessments (Q17, Q18)
Respondents commenting on the Impact Assessments simply noted their support for the consultation and measures that will improve fire safety in homes across Scotland.