Local MSP Kenneth Gibson tells us in the following article about an extension to the timetable for getting new fire alarms fitted in our homes.
Many of us vividly recall London’s Grenfell Tower tragedy, when fire swept through the building, killing 72 people in June 2017.
Following this horrific incident, a Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety reviewed Scotland’s own fire safety regulations. After it concluded in January 2019, all parties represented in the Scottish Parliament unanimously agreed on the introduction of new measures to better protect people from the devastating impact an accidental fire could have.
New fire and smoke alarm requirements were introduced for owner-occupied homes and those rented from housing associations and local authorities, bringing them into line with private rented sector standards. These were to be implemented by February 2021 and preceded by publicity, so everyone would be aware of them.
The new standard requires one smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes, one in every circulation space on each floor, such as hallways and landings and a heat alarm in every kitchen.
Under this legislation, all Scottish homes must have interlinked smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, so that if one is activated it will trigger the others, potentially making the difference between life and death in the event of a fire.
During the ongoing pandemic this issue lost focus. After a leaflet arrived informing people about the new regulations last month, I was contacted by numerous Arran constituents worried about installing these new measures by February, as the virus is still prevalent.
One lady told me that, due to age, she was considered vulnerable and hadn’t seen her son in months, being understandably worried about the possible consequences of catching COVID-19. She was therefore rightly concerned about having unknown tradespeople in her home to install the new fire alarm system before February’s deadline.
I completely agreed with her, other constituents and the charity Age Scotland, which voiced opposition to this timeline. I immediately contacted Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning. Although constituents are generally supportive of improved fire safety measures, the timetable, cost and risk of viral transmission is of concern. I further stressed the lack of information about this change. Most people were unaware of it until the leaflet mentioned above popped through their door. I therefore asked Mr Stewart to extend the deadline.
A listening Minister, Mr Stewart will now ask the Scottish Parliament to approve a 12-month delay in implementation of this legislation. I back this decision and urged the Minister to provide grants based on the size of their home for people who cannot afford the new systems; work with fire alarm installers to ensure there are enough qualified tradespeople; act to reduce the likelihood of scamming; ensure agreed maximum pricing to eliminate over-charging and review implementation in case a further time extension is required.
Meanwhile, most people want their homes to be as safe as possible. For those who can, installing the new system at the earliest opportunity will provide improved fire safety to protect you and your loved ones.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) recently launched their awareness-raising ‘Make the Call’ campaign aimed at carers, family, friends and those most at risk of accidental fire.
The SNP Government has provided over £15 million of loan funding, enabling social landlords to procure and install the necessary alarms to ensure their tenants are safe, and feel safe, at home. An additional £1,740,000 over two years was provided to the SFRS to support home safety visits to vulnerable people.
I’ll work to ensure constituents have the support, information and advice needed in advance of the new standards coming into force in February 2022.