Smoke detectors mandatory for new homes from June

All housing being built from that month will need to have the safety devices installed

It will be mandatory to install smoke detectors in all new homes, including Housing Board flats, that start getting built from June next year.

Confirming this move for the first time since it was flagged by The Straits Times in August, Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said the smoke detectors will provide residents with early alerts to smoke or fires.

"Residents can take steps to quell the fire and prevent it from spreading, or if that is not possible, to quickly evacuate," said Mrs Teo, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Manpower. She was speaking at the Fire Safety Asia Conference Singapore 2017 yesterday.

All new single-storey homes will need only one device, installed in the living room, once the new regime kicks in.

For multi-storey homes, each floor will need at least one device, and floors with combined living and dining room spaces of more than 70 sq m will require at least two.

Home owners can install even more smoke detectors - but not in kitchens and toilets, where smoke and steam from cooking or bathing could trigger false alarms.

Existing homes that undergo fire safety works after June, such as renovations involving a fire-rated door, will also have to follow the latest fire code and have smoke detectors installed.

The recommended type of smoke detector, which features a built-in battery that lasts a decade, costs $50 to $80, based on current market rates.

Residents can also get dry-cell versions that cost $40 or less. However, the battery lasts around a year and will need regular replacement.

Checks by The Straits Times with online retailers show that some of these smoke detectors with removable batteries, most of which are from China, can cost as low as $5.

However, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) requires them to be compliant with either European, Australian or American standards for fire alarms, it said in a press release yesterday.

The cost of installing the detectors in new homes will be borne by developers, while owners of existing homes will have to pay for them.

To help needy residents, SCDF, HDB and the People's Association will install smoke detectors for about 50,000 households in public rental flats for free, in phases.

Priority will be given to households with at least one elderly person aged 60 and above.

Mrs Teo said the ageing demographic of residents was an "important consideration" when updating the Fire Code, which is currently in its seventh edition.

She encouraged existing home owners to also install smoke detectors, even if they are not required to do so.

"HDB will be installing (smoke detectors) in many of its ongoing public housing projects even though these new projects al-ready have building plans sub-mitted before June 2018. I hope, of course, that many private developers and existing home owners do likewise."

One public housing project, Kampung Admiralty, an integrated development for the elderly, already features fire alarm devices connected to a central alarm system.

The new code will also make it mandatory for non-residential buildings with large unmanned premises, such as warehouses, to have a video image fire detection system.

This smart system uses video analytics to detect smoke or fire, allowing building owners and fire safety managers to quickly confirm the presence and extent of a fire.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2017, with the headline 'Smoke detectors mandatory for new homes from June'. Subscribe