A smoke alarm is a safety device designed to alert residents to a potential fire in their home or workplace. It is normally composed of a sensor that detects smoke and a siren that goes off when that smoke is detected. The detector can either have a battery power source or be wired into the building's power supply. Smoke detectors have become a standard in most buildings in industrialised nations, but individual laws can vary. The United Kingdom has specific laws regarding detectors in flats and apartments.
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Smoke Detectors Act
The Smoke Detectors Act was passed in 1991. It required all homes that were built from 1992 forward to have at least one main smoke detector on every floor of the home. The landlord or building agent is responsible for the installation and maintenance of the smoke detectors, unless a lease agreement says otherwise and places the responsibility on the tenant. This means the landlord or agent is responsible and held liable in the event of a fire in the building if it is determined that a fire detector was not installed or was not functioning properly.
BS 5839: Part 6 British Standard
The BS 5839: Part 6 British Standard concerns the requirements for what type of smoke detector is required for each type of dwelling. In general, it states that the landlord or building manager needs to take into account the kind of fire that the building is most likely to face and to choose detectors well-suited for that type of situation. This is also designed to try to prevent false alarms. The law was amended in 2004 to also recommend heat detectors in the kitchen as well as the "principle habitable room" and smoke detectors in the major escape routes of the building.
If the building was constructed after 2007, batteries are no longer allowed to be used as the sole power supply for smoke detectors, since batteries can run out without the owner's knowledge. While a battery can still be used as a backup in the event of a power outage, it is now required that smoke detectors in buildings from 2007 on forward be directly hooked into the building's main power supply. It is up to the landlord or building agent to ensure that these power requirements are met.
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