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Faults in 1-in-3 smoke alarms

Consumer watchdog finds potentially fatal detectors as rush begins before law comes into force

WITH the law requiring smoke alarms détecteurs de fumée to be fitted in all houses by March 8, consumer watchdog UFC Que Choisir has tested 18 easily-found products and found six with problems - including three that should be withdrawn immediately.

One, the Blyss NB739-B1, should never even have been on sale as it was banned by the consumer protection agency DGCCRF in January 2013. Others, such as the Arcotec DF0001/KD 108 and Elro RM144C, failed to detect fumes from burning wood and bedding before the amount of smoke had made it difficult to see.

A fourth alarm, the AREV Technic, was slightly better and at the limits of conformity, but still did not detect the fumes until the smoke was dense. Two others, Smoke Detector Clock Thumbs Up and General Purpose SS-168, were criticised as they were badly designed: the former could be closed without a battery or if it was badly fitted and the second because of an “impossible to understand lay-out”.

House fires kill up to 1,200 victims a year and France trails its European neighbours by about 20 years as the UK, Germany and Sweden have halved deaths since introducing alarms.

Now that the final date for fitting the “détecteurs avertisseurs autonomes de fumée” is just weeks away Que Choisir and the DGCCRF warn about the number of cons and real dangers for consumers to beware.

In all, 37 million homes in France should be fitted with a smoke detector by March 8 but recent figures showed that only one in 10 households had done so and that just 60-65% would have done so by the time the law comes into force.

Alarms have to meet the EN 14604 European standard and carry the CE logo or the NF EN 14604 equivalent and Que Choisir strongly suggests that buyers opt for alarms with the French NF standard as the French tests are tougher.

The DGCCRF said that the average price of an alarm was between €12 and €15 and that care should be taken with cheaper alarms. Fire protection group Fédération Française des Métiers de l'Incendie said that products that had the CE and NF marks gave consumers full guarantee of working – and they made up 90% of the products on the market.

Detectors do not need to be wired into the mains, so householders can fit their own – into the ceiling in a hallway outside bedrooms – and the FFMI said one of their installers could do it for about €65, supplied and fitted. Once the alarm is fitted the householder is obliged to inform their insurer.
Photo: Tumi-1983

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