Fire alarms may be a must for new homes

Battery-operated smoke alarms are designed to alert occupants when they sense smoke, and function independently.
Battery-operated smoke alarms are designed to alert occupants when they sense smoke, and function independently.

Government confirms it is studying idea as such devices can reduce injuries or deaths

All new homes may soon come with fire alarms, with the authorities looking at making them compulsory.

Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said in Parliament yesterday that such alarms "can help minimise the number of fire injuries or fatalities in residential fire".

This is the first time the Government has confirmed it is studying the idea. The Straits Times had reported in August that the Fire Code would be updated next June to ensure smoke detectors are installed in newly built homes.

Last year, about 70 per cent of fire injuries came from blazes that started in homes, compared with about 40 per cent a decade ago, said Mrs Teo. She cited a 2015 report by the United States' National Fire Protection Association that found the fatality rate from residential fires in homes with alarms was 40 per cent lower than in those without.

The battery-operated devices are designed to alert occupants when they sense smoke, and function independently. They are not connected to emergency services or a central fire alarm system.

They cost between $60 and $80 for a basic version, while installation could cost another $50 or so.

The Straits Times reported that home owners are likely to bear these costs, though the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and grassroots groups will identify those who need financial help.

  • 70%

    Percentage of fire injuries last year that came from blazes started in homes. A decade ago, it was about 40 per cent.

Yesterday, Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) asked who would maintain such alarms in Housing Board rental flats, especially those with elderly tenants who may not be able to do so.

Mrs Teo said batteries on such devices usually last a decade, and that maintenance "mainly involves pressing a button to check whether there's battery life left". "Between the SCDF, HDB and People's Association grassroots, I'm quite sure we can work out a good approach to maintenance," she said.

She added that the SCDF has been encouraging home owners to install the alarms, of which there are several models to cater to different needs. For example, residents who have vision and hearing problems can consider models with features such as vibrating alerts or visual alarms.

But experts had previously told The Straits Times that the take-up rate was low.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) also asked if the Government would consider installing alarms in every rental flat, including existing ones.

Mrs Teo replied: "The short answer is yes."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2017, with the headline 'Fire alarms may be a must for new homes'. Print Edition | Subscribe