Ms Joan Pereira: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs with regard to home smoke alarms which must be installed in all newly built homes from June 2018 (a) who will be responsible for maintaining the alarms especially in rental flats to ensure that the detectors and batteries are working; and (b) whether the Ministry will consider connecting these alarms to a central alert system since many elderly have vision and hearing problems and may not notice alerts from the alarms.
1. Mr Speaker, MHA has not announced the mandatory installation of Home Fire Alarm Devices, or HFADs, but let me provide some background why MHA is studying the idea.
2. In 2016, about 70% of fire injuries are from residential fires, compared to about 40% 10 years ago.
3. HFADs can help to minimise the number of fire injuries or fatalities in residential fire. HFADs are standalone devices that are not connected to any central alert system. The purpose of a HFAD is to provide early warning to the occupants in the event of a fire, so that they can quickly extinguish the fire or swiftly make their way to safety before the fire escalates.
4. In the United States, a 2015 report by the National Fire Protection Association found that the fatality rate arising from residential fires in homes with HFADs was 40% lower than those without HFADs.
5. SCDF has been encouraging homeowners to install HFADs. There are several HFAD models available in the market that cater to different user needs and requirements. Residents who have vision and hearing problems may consider models with additional features such as alerts via vibrating pads or visual alarms. Developers who install such systems should likewise be mindful of the needs of their property users.
6. Fire safety is everyone's responsibility. As with other fire safety provisions within homes, such as fire extinguishers or fire-rated doors, generally, the owners and occupiers are responsible for ensuring that the HFADs are kept in good working condition.
7. We note the Member's concerns about rental tenants and the elderly. SCDF will take into consideration feedback by Advisers, including Ms Joan Pereira, before finalising the details of the scheme.