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Fire alarm plan backfires

A plan by officials in Carinthia to promote tough new fire safety regulations which mean that all new flats and houses have to include smoke alarms by giving away 10,000 free devices made in Eastern Europe backfired after it turned out the devices were too poor quality to be of any use.

Under the new regulations all new properties have to be fitted with smoke detection devices from first of October.

The free smoke alarms from Carinthia were available to homeowners who kept a coupon offered in a local free newspaper. Anybody who turns up at council offices in Klagenfurt, Villach and Spittal can get one of the alarms until 15 November.

But the smoke alarms which came from the Czech Republic although they fulfil the basic CE-Norm in that they do raise the alarm when there is smoke – independent tests have revealed that they are in practice virtually unusable.

They need for example to be tested every seven days to make sure that they are working – in contrast a normal device sold on the market for just five Euros that only needs to be tested once a month. In addition users are told that they have to change the batteries at least once a year – whereas the five-Euro device needs to have the batteries changed when the machine warns that is running low and the warning appears a month before the swap is really necessary.

Regional governor Gerhard Dörfler (FPK) has defended the devices saying they do fulfil the basic requirements and at the end of the day it is better to have some protection.

Out of 408 fires in the province where there was more than 2,000 Euros worth of damage, some 140 were in private homes, 80 on farms, 12 in firms and 76 in commercial properties. The total damage was over €25 million. In 2010 five people died in fires and 41 were injured – last year there were 37 dead and this year, 2012 there have so far been five.

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