Smoke alarms must be fitted
Owners and occupants of French properties must fit a smoke alarm by next March
OWNERS and occupants of French properties must fit a smoke alarm by next March in a bid to halve the annual toll of 800 deaths and 10,000 people left with disfiguring burns.
The move particularly affects holiday home and gite owners who must make sure alarms are fitted and regularly tested.
Just 2% of homes had alarms fitted when the law was passed in March 2013 but French figures show 80% of victims die from smoke inhalation – twothirds of them in their sleep.
House fires are the second highest cause of death for children under five, after drowning.
The number of house fires has doubled over the past 20 years to 250,000 a year and ministers say fatalities would be halved if smoke detectors, costing €10-€20, were fitted.
Owners and tenants are liable for fitting alarms but in furnished and holiday lets it is the owner who is responsible.
You must tell your insurer you have fitted a smoke alarm and they may give a discount on the premium. Anyone who does not tell their insurer or does not fit an alarm may face an “excess” of up to €5,000 for any damage caused by a fire.
Insurers cannot refuse to pay compensation because a smoke alarm was not fitted.
In the UK, where it is thought 89% of homes have a smoke alarm fitted, about 50% of deaths occur in homes either without an alarm or with a battery that is not working.
Different types of alarm are on the market but the law specifies they must carry the European EN14604 mark.
There are three types: Ionisation ones are cheapest and are very sensitive to flame fires such as chip pans, but not fumes from smouldering foamfilled upholstery and wiring which is the speciality of more expensive Optical detectors. Combined detectors do both.
Alarms should be on the ceiling in the centre of a room or, for homes on one level, just before the bedrooms. For houses on two floors, fit the alarm on the ceiling at the top of the stairs.