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New Scottish fire alarm laws have come into force

  • 5 min read

Written by Domestic & General

1 in 4 homes in the UK has a household appliance, electrical product or boiler protected by us. Naturally, we wanted to help explain the changes to fire alarm laws and how they’ll impact residents.

The changes, which came into effect on 1st February 2022, were introduced to improve fire safety in homes across the nation. If you live in Scotland, buy new alarms as soon as possible if yours don’t interlink. We’ve gathered some useful details about interlinked alarms so you know what to look for when replacing yours…

A Scottish flag flying next to a house

What are interlinked alarms?

Interlinked is another way of saying connected. Your different alarms can be connected either by a mains system or wireless technology (Wi-Fi isn’t required). With interlinked alarms, when one goes off, they all go off, so you’re alerted quickly. If your alarms are unlinked, you may not always hear the alarm closest to the fire if you’re in a different room in your home.

How have the rules changed?  

Every home in Scotland must have interlinked heat and smoke alarms. Scotland is the first nation in the UK to make this compulsory.

Who do the changes apply to?

Row of sunny houses

All homeowners. If you rent your home, your landlord is responsible because it’s the property owner’s duty to follow the new requirements. 

If you live in a block of flats, the alarms in your home must interlink. If you own your flat, it’s your responsibility to install them. However, they don’t need to interlink with your neighbour’s alarms or with alarms in communal areas.

Can I be prosecuted if I don’t have interlinked alarms?

There is currently no penalty for residents who do not install interlinked fire alarms, but they are strongly encouraged to do so. Local authorities are responsible for enforcing the legislation.

Why were the rules introduced?

Rules checklist of three items

Devastatingly, more than 40 people were killed in house fires in Scotland between 2020 and 2021 . Interlinked alarms are now a mandatory requirement in Scotland because they are safer than standalone fire alarms. When choosing new alarms, check the product names/labels carefully to ensure they comply with the latest regulations.

How many interlinked alarms should I have?

What every home in Scotland must have:

  • 1 smoke alarm in the room used most during the day (this is likely to be the living room)
  • 1 heat alarm in the kitchen
  • 1 smoke alarm in every hallway or landing

The alarms should be mounted on the ceiling.

What’s the difference between fire, smoke and heat alarms?

Smoke and heat alarms are both fire alarms. Smoke alarms go off when smoke is detected. Smoke is one of the first signs of a fire, so it’s vital that you have the correct number of smoke alarms in your house. Because they are sensitive to even small quantities of smoke, it’s best to have heat alarms in rooms where there are normally lots of fumes. This will help if you’re tired of triggering a false alarm whenever you burn your toast. Heat alarms detect sudden changes in temperature, rather than smoke and fumes.

What about carbon monoxide alarms?

If you have a gas boiler or appliance you must also have a carbon monoxide detector in that room but this doesn’t need to be interlinked with the heat and smoke alarms. Also, your carbon monoxide detector doesn’t have to be placed on the ceiling. We have a guide about how to look after gas appliances.

A man fitting an alarm to the ceiling.

What kind of smoke and heat alarms should I get?

You can opt for battery sealed or mains-wired alarms. If you opt for battery sealed ones, these will need to be replaced when the battery dies. Any alarms you buy will include information on how long the battery lasts (this can be up to 10 years). Mains wired ones will have a battery in them, to make sure they still work in the event of a power cut. But these need an electrician to install them.

Battery alarm requirements:

  • They must be sealed, tamper-proof units.
  • Long-life lithium batteries must be fitted.
  • Replaceable batteries are not acceptable because the entire alarm needs to be replaced when the battery runs out. This is because the sensors in the alarm degrade over time and once they expire they will not detect heat or smoke.

If your carbon monoxide detector is battery powered, it also must be a sealed, tamperproof unit. The battery must be able to power the alarm for its entire working life.

 

Mains-wired alarm requirements:

  • A qualified electrician must fit them.
  • They need replacing every 10 years.
  • Because of the level of work required, bear in mind you’ll need to redecorate after.

Your alarms must meet these standards:

Smoke alarms                       BS EN14604:2005

Heat alarms                           BS 5446-2:2003

Carbon monoxide detector: British Kitemark EN 50291-1

Remember, you need to test your alarms at least once a year. A good trick is to get into the habit of checking them when the clocks change.

If specialist alarms are required, they must be fitted in addition to smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarms. This applies to telecare systems and alarms for people with hearing loss

Please be aware that Nest systems and alarms do not meet the required standards in Scotland.

Where can I buy my alarms?

Type ‘interlinked fire alarms’ into your preferred search engine. Many home improvement and hardware retailers also stock the alarms.

Where do I get more information?

More details are available on the Scottish government website.