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Brussels MP wants smoke alarms in every home

15:02 10/02/2021

Brussels MP Bianca Debaets (CD&V) told parliament that she would like to see smoke detectors in every residence. Currently smoke detectors are only required in rental properties in the capital.

Requiring one or more smoke alarms in every home would bring Brussels into line with regulations in Flanders and Wallonia. According to the latest Fire Safety Monitor, from 2018, 65% of homes in Brussels are equipped with a smoke alarm.

The Brussels fire brigade, said Debaets, has advised the government to implement the same regulation as the other two regions. The lack of regulation, she said “brings with it extra safety risks”.

There are some 1,800 fires in houses and flats in Brussels annually. In 2019, three people died and 111 were taken to hospital. In the first half of 2020, two people died and 74 were hospitalised as the result of a fire.

“This shows that the number of fires in Brussels cannot be underestimated,” said Debaets. “I’m happy to see that state secretaries Pascal Smet and Nawal Ben Hamou are looking to improve the regulations around smoke alarms. Hopefully they will be able to present the next steps in this process to parliament soon.”

Corona fires

Fire figures in Belgium, however, have been complicated by the corona crisis. In 2019, for instance, 16 people died in Flanders due to a home fire, proportionately about the same as in Brussels. Smoke alarms were required since the beginning of 2020 in the region, and, surprisingly, figures were worse, with 19 people dying in the first half of the year alone. The figure was exactly the same for Wallonia in the first half of 2020.

While smoke detectors have been proven to save lives time and again, it became impossible to assess this in Flanders and Wallonia because of the massive increase in the loading of electrical devices at home in 2020 – which led to more fires.

According to fire safety expert Tim Renders, people loaded computers, telephones and other devices at home that they once loaded at the office. They also used certain appliances much more than usual, like printers and coffee machines. Finally, the loading of electric bicycle batteries led to several fires, he said.

Renders also pointed out that not everyone had yet installed smoke detectors and that many who did failed to install enough of them. Smoke detectors should be installed on every floor of a home between the bedroom and the exit, he said, as well as in every place vulnerable to fire, such as a laundry areas.

Photo ©Belga

Written by Lisa Bradshaw