By Des Taylor 15 May 2019
One of Landlords Defence’s clients had an inconceivable situation yesterday with a major manufacturer of interconnected smoke and heat detector fire alarm units.
Our client had found problems some days ago with the units not working properly on test and had the manufacturer sent some replacements via the post, (reassuring the client that although the faulty ones were bleeping, they could be silenced for 8 hours multiple times and would still function correctly). The client had to pay for an engineer to attend and sort out the faults.
Yesterday the engineer attended to fit the replacements with the instruction to speak to the manufacturer’s technical support department. He did this, as the system was still not functioning correctly.
The manufacturer’s technical support department said that they needed to test the remaining units in the system and that they would need to be removed and despatched to the manufacturer to do so.
Even though the client had pleaded with the manufacturer on the first occasion to make an arrangement with a local trade outlet to do a swap, (recognising the need for fire safety) this request had been vehemently refused over and over by the manufacturer. We think it is completely unacceptable to wait for items in the post when a ten year back up battery is only lasting just over two years and the detector unit is therefore not safe.
On two occasions the manufacturer stated they could not change process and “No way can we provide replacements,” was the rhetoric.
The solution from the engineer was “You need to remove the units and post them back to us. We will then test them and either send them back if they test ok or replace them if we find them to be faulty.”
The Engineer adding unbelievably, “It should be okay, they will be able to hear the other alarms if they go off.”
The manufacturer was aware it was an HMO with 10 alarms in total.The house has Fire Doors throughout with intumescent strips and cold smoke seals, these seriously reduce the volume from alarms outside the room so the sound level would probably be below the legal requirements
UNBELIEVEABLE! A real NO, NO! NO, NO! NO, NO!
It appears that these technical support people have no idea about fire regulations and did they not see Grenfell?
Have they never seen the devastation of a house fire?
How are they even in the fire safety business if they can suggest putting the lives of several residents at risk for possibly days or weeks.
The engineer followed the manufacturer’s advice as they told him and removed almost half the detectors from the house!
He thought this wasn’t right and fortunately he then reported to our client the actions he had been instructed to take.
Not surprisingly our client called us to ask us what to do. We confirmed his thoughts, that the risk was far too great he was advised to take immediate corrective action.
So here’s the thing. You CANNOT take risks with fire safety. EVER.
I’ll come to the legal position in a minute, but the thing is YOU as a landlord are morally responsible for the safety of the people living in your property.
So if you find a faulty alarm, you preferably have a spare in stock. If not you despatch someone to Screwfix, Toolstation or the likes or to an alarm trade counter and you get it replaced and tested in the absolute minimum time possible.
Fires happen at any time and they can take full hold in minutes. No ‘early alarm’ could mean somebody not being able to get out in time and being maimed or killed.
This client despatched someone to get the needed interlinked heat and smoke alarms. Not a cheap affair but just not negotiable and then of course had to employ the engineer to complete the set up and test of the system.
As we explained, there is plenty of time to negotiate any recompense with the reckless manufacturer later. What is imperative is that all the residents are safe and not at risk.
Legally, the council fines for defective or missing fire detection seems to average more than £10,000 and with possible criminal conviction too. Even worse you could face a corporate manslaughter charge.
Please all landlords, DO NOT EVER TAKE RISKS WITH FIRE SAFETY!
Landlords Defence will be taking this manufacturer to task about never giving such disastrous advice again and to create a system for replacements that ensures as near instant replacement of faulty units as possible.
If they choose to continue as they are, it will be necessary for us to disclose the issue to the appropriate regulatory organisations.