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Berlin minister: smoke alarm in every home

The Local · 12 Jul 2012, 11:42

Published: 12 Jul 2012 11:42 GMT+02:00

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Most Berlin politicians have now agreed that smoke alarms are a good thing - cheap, easy to install, and life-saving.

But the idea of making them mandatory was rejected last year by the city's previous, and more left-wing, government. That was replaced by a coalition of the centre-left Social Democratic Party and the conservative Christian Democratic Union in September 2011.

The conservative Henkel resurrected the idea this week, Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper reported on Thursday, and gained the approval of the deposed Left party. Though the socialists warned that the devil was in the details.

"The obligatory smoke alarm didn't fail because of us," said Left party spokesman Udo Wolf.

"Obviously it makes sense to protect tenants from fires." But he pointed out that no-one had yet satisfactorily explained who would pay for the installation and maintenance of 1.6 million smoke alarms - tenants, landlords, or both.

It also remains unclear whether the new measure would be part of building regulations, a new law, or part of the tenants' rights.

Building firms estimate that the installation could cost up to €300 million for the whole city - even though smoke alarms only cost up to around €25 each. Not only would the installation be labour intensive, the smoke alarms would have to be installed in every room, staircase, and cellar to be effective.

There is already a smoke alarm obligation in ten of Germany's 16 states.

The association of Berlin-Brandenburg housing companies believes that smoke alarms are not effective. "Smoke alarms don't prevent fires, but they can give people a false sense of security," argued spokesman David Eberhart this week.

Story continues below…

On average 30 people die in fires in the capital each year – many of them at night, with sleeping victims killed by smoke rather flames.

The Local/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:18 July 12, 2012 by Herr Rentz
Maybe they could get the wealthy to pay for them? The over €250,000 net-worth individuals?
12:55 July 12, 2012 by William Thirteen
it would be in their self interest - then they'll know when the city goes up in flames!
13:20 July 12, 2012 by lucksi
Installing them is one thing, what about the upkeep?

Like the batteries that will run out in three quarters of a year and don't even last for the year long service interval; if you have a service contract to begin with.

Then you have the ones in the homes themselves instead of common areas; do you trust the inhabitants to change the batteries?

From personal experience I can say that the batteries do not last a year, the detectors in common areas get stolen (simply ripped off the ceiling) and I was too pissed about being woken in the middle of the night three times by a failing battery that I didn't install a new one.
14:08 July 12, 2012 by michael4096
I've had to replace the battery twice in 10 years in my smoke alarm...
15:09 July 12, 2012 by auniquecorn
The Berlin minister must have family in the smoke alarm manufacturing business.
15:52 July 12, 2012 by cheeba
They have been mandatory in New York City for more than 20 years. The landlord or owner initally pays for and installs them. The tenant is responsible for replacing the batteries when necessary, the machine lets off a special beep when the battery is getting low. The batteries last far longer than a year, since they use almost no energy except when they go off because of smoke. The new ones also monitor for gas leaks as well as smoke. They are very easy to install, you screw it on the wall and put in a battery. That's it.
17:28 July 12, 2012 by bobmarchiano
Adding on to the New York City in Buffalo NY landlords also have to pay for them

and having bought a few myself in the last 30 years I have never paid more

then $5.00 which included the batteries for the basic model

And the batteries lasted over a year if not longer.

Germans are paying way to much for items for all your basic needs.

check out www.homedepot.com
19:34 July 12, 2012 by realist1961
I find it interesting that the Government demands health care, but not smoke detectors. I guess that's how people can afford all the social benefits... make sure people die young. Excessive speeds on the autobahn, no requirement for bicycle helmets, drinking when you're 16, cigarette machines on every street corner. Can't have people living too long or else it will cost too much.
18:22 July 13, 2012 by DoubleDTown
Who will pay for it? Landlords challenge if they help? Are you kidding?

In the U.S. insurance companies and fire departments push them. I'm sure they wouldn't if they didn't think they save money in the long run, and lives. Of course smoke detectors help keep people safe from fire. How bizarre to question it.

As to who will pay for it? I'd say anyone that has a home can afford a smoke detector -- they are pretty cheap by any standard of comparison.
17:44 July 25, 2012 by Mr Goodmorning
Wow. It's quite surprising that they aren't required already. In Massachusetts, where I live, they are required in all dwelling units, in addition to carbon monoxide detectors. As part of our state's residential habitability requirements, landlords are required to make sure that all units have them and that they are in working order. Property owners may be criminally or civilly liable should someone be injured or killed on account of a lack of or a non-working smoke/CO2 detector. All new residential construction now requires hardwired smoke/CO2 detectors with battery backup as well as sprinkler systems (with no requirement to retrofit existing dwellings for either, but the insurance companies offer incentives to many of those who do so). When the law requiring detectors was passed over 30 years ago, deaths from household fired plummeted exponentially.
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