Parliament: Government looking at mandatory installation of fire alarms in new homes

Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said that the SCDF has been encouraging homeowners to install the alarms, where there are several models to cater to different needs.
Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said that the SCDF has been encouraging homeowners to install the alarms, where there are several models to cater to different needs. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The authorities are looking into the mandatory installation of fire alarms in new homes to help minimise injuries and deaths from residential fires, Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 3).

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 will be updated next June to make it compulsory for all newly-built homes to come with smoke detectors.

Last year, about 70 per cent of fire injuries came from blazes that started in homes, compared to about 40 per cent a decade ago, said Mrs Teo.

She cited a 2015 report by the United States' National Fire Protection Association which found that the fatality rate from residential fires in homes with alarms was 40 per cent lower than 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.

On Tuesday, 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 that 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.

Mrs Teo added that the SCDF has been encouraging homeowners to install the alarms, where 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 is low.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) also asked if the government would consider alarms in all rental flats, and not just those with elderly tenants.

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