Publication - Consultation paper

Fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes: consultation

Published: 8 Sep 2017

Consultation seeking views on possible changes to standards required for fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes.

Fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes: consultation
Part Four: Changes to the Minimum Standard

Part Four: Changes to the Minimum Standard

36. The Scottish Government’s proposal is to extend the standard currently applying to private rented housing to other tenures. This part of the consultation seeks views on whether any changes are needed to that standard.

Common Alarms (alarms that are interlinked between flats)

37. Interlinked alarms are connected to each other so that if one is triggered, all the alarms in the system are also triggered. This can be a wired connection or through a radio or internet link. In a new build house or a private rented home all the alarms in the same home must be interlinked.

38. It is also possible to interlink alarms in different flats in the same building, so that if an alarm is triggered in one flat, the linked alarms in the other flats will also be triggered (either for the whole block or for a zone within the block). These systems are not recommended in new buildings because of the risk of unwanted fire alarm signals. [28]

Question 4: Do you think that any new standards should require fire and smoke alarms to be interlinked in different flats in the same building? Yes/no/don’t know - Please explain your answer.

Common Area Alarms

39. If such a common alarm system was in place it would also be possible to have alarms sited in common spaces, such as common closes and stairways, or bin stores and chutes, and to link these alarms with the alarms in each separate flat. Interlinked alarms in common areas are recommended in sheltered housing complexes because of the vulnerability of the occupants. [29] However, we think that it would be unhelpful to require common alarms generally as there could be a risk of unwanted signals being triggered if alarms were located in common areas. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service advise that when a fire breaks out within a multi-storey building, if your flat is not affected by heat and smoke, then the safest course of action is to remain in your flat and allow the fire service to deal with the emergency. Building construction is designed to allow for a fire to be contained to the room of origin until extinguished by the fire service. It is therefore considered that alarms that alert people to fires in other flats or common areas are not needed.

Question 5: If we introduce a new minimum cross-tenure standard, do you think that it should require fire and smoke detectors in common areas? Yes/no/don’t know - Please explain your answer.

Battery Powered Alarms

40. The current standard applied to private rented housing follows the minimum standard for new build housing in requiring mains-powered supply for fire and smoke alarms. This reflects the assessment of the risk of battery alarms running out of power, or the removal of batteries by tenants. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service report attending fires, sometimes with fatalities, and finding operational alarms that failed to trigger because of missing or defective batteries. [30] Sealed unit lithium battery-powered radio-linked alarms with a ten year lifespan are now widely available and are comparatively low-cost. These alarms prevent the removal of batteries and the battery lasts at least as long as the lifespan of the alarm. When the Scottish Government introduced a duty to fit carbon monoxide alarms in private rented housing, we recognised the use of battery alarms which incorporate a warning device to alert the users when its working life is due to expire. [31]

41. We propose the following minimum criteria for battery alarms:

  • Sealed battery units, designed to last the lifetime of the unit (at least 10 years);
  • Interlinking between alarms (including radio, Bluetooth etc.); and
  • A warning device to alert occupiers at the expiry of the lifetime of the unit.

42. Allowing some battery alarms would reduce the impact on owner occupiers. There would also be benefits in reducing the cost for social landlords. We think that we should also change the guidance for private landlords if this measure is introduced.

Question 6: Do you think that it would be acceptable to specify battery alarms in new standards, provided these meet the minimum criteria? Yes/no/don’t know - Please explain your answer.

6 (a) This would involve a change to the current Private Rented Sector guidance which requires mains wired smoke alarms. Please let us know your views about this.

Maximum Age for Alarms

43. Fire and smoke alarms usually have an operational lifespan of ten years. To ensure that alarms are replaced at the end of their lifespan, we think that we should specify a maximum age for alarms, for example that any alarm should be not more than 10 years old.

Question 7: Do you think that a minimum standard should specify a maximum age for alarms? Yes/no/don’t know - Please explain your answer. If yes, do you agree that the maximum age should be 10 years? If not, what alternative?

Location of Alarms

44. The purpose of an alarm is to alert occupiers in the event of a fire and allow them time to respond and escape. Minimum standards require alarms in living rooms and halls so that warning of a fire in another part of the home will alert people elsewhere – particularly if they are asleep in a bedroom. In 2015-16, of the 830 dwelling fires where the smoke alarm failed to operate, 378 (46%) were due to fire not being close enough to the detector, and 61 (7%) due to the fire being in an area not covered by the system. [32]

Question 8: Do you think that there should be any change to the rules on the location of alarms in the minimum standard? If so, what?

Other Changes

45. The next question is intended to capture any other views on changes to fire and smoke detectors that should be considered in the application of a new standard to social landlords and owner occupiers, or in the existing standard to the private rented sector.

Question 9: Do you think there should be any other changes considered for (i) any new standard for social landlords and owner occupiers or (ii) the existing standard for private rented housing? Yes/no/don’t know – please explain your answer.


Email: Simon Roberts,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road