Smoke detectors will soon also be mandatory in existing buildings
Henry Rutjes, Fire Safety & Security expert at Kiwa
As in many other European countries, from 1 July 2022, every home in The Netherlands must be equipped with smoke detectors on every floor. This obligation has been applicable to new-build homes since 2003, but will also apply to existing homes from this summer. Although smoke detectors are currently installed in three quarters of homes, millions of new smoke detectors will be purchased as a result of the new legislation. What should you pay attention to when purchasing such a device?
According to the Residential Fires Risk Monitor of the Dutch insurers association Verbond van Verzekeraars, insurers received over 66 thousand reports of residential fires in 2020, two thousand more than in the previous year. Those fires caused a total damage of 225 million euros. In addition, many hundreds of people were injured in those fires, 30 of them fatally. The fact that the number of house fires rose again after years of decline can possibly be explained by the fact that many people worked from home in 2020 because of the corona pandemic.
Difference between life and death
Because this trend to work from home is likely to continue and we increasingly use rechargeable electrical equipment in our homes, fire prevention remains an important point of attention. Early detection can literally make the difference between life and death in case of a fire. The most important tool for this is the smoke detector. With a good smoke detector, fire damage to home and property can be limited and perhaps even prevented. And if things really get out of hand, a smoke detector enables the residents to leave the house safely.
Optical smoke detectors
Smoke detectors come in all shapes and sizes. The most commonly used variant is the so-called optical smoke detector. This type of smoke detector continuously emits a light beam that is received by a light-sensitive cell. In case of a fire, the light from that light beam is partially scattered or absorbed by smoke, so that it is not captured correctly by the light-sensitive cell. As soon as the smoke detector detects this, an alarm signal is activated. Although the working principle of the optical smoke detector is relatively simple, the quality of the technical components of such a device is crucial for permanent good operation. When purchasing a smoke detector, it is therefore wise to ensure that it meets the applicable quality requirements.
European quality standard
According to Dutch law, a smoke detector that is used in a residential home must meet various requirements. In any case, certification against the European quality standard EN 14604 is mandatory. If it concerns a smoke detector on mains power, a NEN 2555 certificate is also required. A smoke detector must also bear the well-known CE marking. Certification against a quality standard such as EN 14604 guarantees, among other things, that the energy supply of the smoke detector is in order, that the smoke detector detects smoke in time and of course that a good sound signal is emitted.
What requirements must an approved smoke detector meet?
A manufacturer of smoke detectors cannot simply stick such a CE marking and EN 14604 certification on its product. In order to be allowed to do this legally, the device must have been tested by an independent testing body. As an independent specialist in testing, inspection and certification, Kiwa has a modern laboratory especially for testing smoke detectors and other devices for fire and burglary protection. Manufacturers can go here to obtain a CE marking for their products and have them tested against the requirements of, among others, EN 14604. With the latter, smoke detectors are subjected to an extensive test program in which answers must be obtained to the following questions:
- Does the smoke detector also detect less dense smoke? Does it matter which side the smoke is coming from? Does the detector continue to work after the first alarm?
- Does the smoke detector respond to all types of smoke? Does the effect differ with the different types of combustible material?
- Does the smoke detector also work when there is a draft? Or if the device is hanging in the sun or in a damp or drafty place?
- Can the smoke detector take a beating and is the device resistant to vibrations and electrostatic or electromagnetic fields?
- Does the ‘battery empty‘ alarm sound in time? (according to the standard: one month in advance). Does the smoke detector emit a warning signal if there is a problem?
- Is the alarm signal from the smoke detector loud enough and does it last long enough?
Want to know more?
Are you a home owner? Then don't wait until July and check whether you have a smoke detector on every floor and on any escape routes right away! Are you renting a home? In that case, the installation of smoke detectors is the responsibility of the landlord. You can check whether a smoke detector meets the requirements yourself: both the packaging and the smoke detector itself usually state whether a device is CE marked and/or EN 14604 certified. Are you a manufacturer or importer of smoke detectors? At Kiwa you can have your products tested quickly and efficiently. Contact us for more information or visit: https://www.kiwa.com/nl/en/specials/fire-safety-and-security/.