In a study carried out by the French consumer watchdog the Institut National de la Consommation, six of out of eight popular smoke alarms on the French market did not work properly in tests they carried out on them.
In the light of the report the French government has ordered trading standards officials to carry out their own tests.
Similar tests also carried out by the consumer body Que Choisir in 2006 found that only three of the twelve smoke alarms they tested could be recommended for use, which resulted in some later being withdrawn from the market.
All of this comes at a time when a new draft law is currently making its way through the French Parliament that proposes to make obligatory the installation of smoke detectors in all homes in France over a five year period.
Around 800 people die each year from domestic fires in France and it is estimated that only 1% to 3% of homes in France are currently equipped with a smoke alarm.
The difficulty with any new law is going to be the practicalities of ensuring compliance, unless the government were to employ an army of 'smoke alarm inspectors', which seems unlikely! It could well be that pressure will be exerted through French house insurance companies to make it a condition of insurance policies.
However, even then there remains the difficulty of ensuring the alarms are installed and maintained properly.
We shall have to await the outcome of the passage of the law, and the no doubt voluminous decrees that will subsequently be published on the subject.
Best Smoke Detectors?
In the light of the above tests, consumers are also going to need clear guidance on those alarms to use.
In the INC study, the only two alarms that passed their tests were the Kidde 29FR and EI Home EI105B. These two detectors also happened to be the most expensive in the tests, with Kidde model considered to be offering best value for money at around €20.
The following alarms all failed the tests:
Elro (RM121C) ;
Fare (l’Alerteur) ;
Chacon (34260) ;
Astrell (610345) ;
Projex (HS 103) ;
In these cases, the smoke detector either failed to detect a fire, or it did not do so in sufficient time, or the siren was not sufficiently loud.
All smoke alarms in France (and indeed elsewhere within the EU) must comply with the quality standard EN14064, and all alarms in the INC test were stated by the manufacturers to comply with this standard.
Indeed, four also bore the quality mark 'NF', signifying compliance with French quality standards, although it is not clear just what is the difference between the two standards.
Despite the concern expressed by the INC in these test failures, they caution consumers about spending a lot of money on smoke alarms, some of which can cost upwards of €100. They consider they do not necessarily offer better performance.
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