Responding to a BBC 5-LIVE Breakfast investigation into smoke alarms, which found that they don’t prevent fires, put them out or rescue people, the FBU points out that nearly as many people people die in fires with working smoke alarms than die in fires where they are absent.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary said: â€œWe fully support the greater use of smoke alarms but it is a complete myth that people donâ€™t die in fires if there is a smoke alarm fitted and working. Smoke alarms also have a high failure rate, when they donâ€™t operate, because people do things like take the batteries out or they fail for technical reasons.
â€œSmoke alarms help save lives and reduce injuries. But they donâ€™t prevent fires, they donâ€™t put them out and they donâ€™t rescue you.
â€œIt is important to understand there is still a risk to life when you do have them fitted. Itâ€™s critical you have an escape plan so you know how to get you and your family out if you can.
â€œSmoke alarms are not and cannot be a replacement for firefighters. Too many fire services have used the fitting of smoke alarms to justify cuts to their local fire service, and these figures show why that is very wrong.
â€œWe have highlighted for the last two years our concerns about increasing delays in the speed of fire service response times â€“ how quickly we can get to an emergency. There is no doubt people are dying as a result of these delays, which are happening because of cuts in the service.
â€œWhen a working smoke alarm gives an early alert to a fire it gives firefighters a better chance of rescuing those who are trapped. That has been undermined by slower response times which do reduce your chances of survival or limiting injuries
â€œThere has been a large drop in the number of fire deaths in the last 25 years. This is as much to do with better prevention, better building design and safer and less flammable furniture as it is with smoke alarms and fire service rescues.
â€œIt is critical to remember that firefighters rescue over 7,000 people every year from fires. Smoke alarms cannot do that.â€
Official UK fire statistics for 2008 (the last centrally available)
77 people died in fires where a smoke alarm was present and operated, another 46 died where present and operated but did not raise alarm and another 100 died where smoke alarm was present but did not operate. Total of 123 died in fires where smoke alarm was present and operated and 130 died in fires where no smoke alarm was present. A total of 223 people died in fires where a smoke alarm was present (whether it operated or not) and 130 died in fires where a smoke alarm was absent.
Source UK Fire statistics 2008 page 38
Responses to dwelling fires in the UK have slowed by 18% between 1996 and 2006;
According to Government reports this is likely to have led to an additional 13 fatalities each year.
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