Smoke detectors have been mandatory for years. Nevertheless, many households in Lower Saxony do not have one installed. Also in Hann. Münden is similar, chimney sweeps report.
Hann.Münden – Smoke detectors in apartments have been mandatory in Lower Saxony since 2015. Nevertheless, according to the Lower Saxony state guild association of chimney sweeps, 26 percent of Lower Saxony households do not have smoke detectors. This was the result of a survey by the guild association in 2020. "The result of this survey can be traced back one to one to Hann. Münden,” says Jürgen Schäfer, district master chimney sweep for one of the three sweeping districts in the city of three rivers.
There are many landlords who take care of the installation and maintenance of smoke detectors, but some do not. Older people in particular are often more conscientious. Smoke detectors are particularly important in apartments in the center of Münden, because the dense development and fire loads, some of which are in attics or escape routes, can quickly lead to large fires.
Smoke alarms can prevent significant fire damage
Most people only realize how devastating not having one can be when a fire causes significant damage - or worse: people are injured. "In many cases, a smoke detector could have reduced the damage," says Schäfer. It is therefore no coincidence that the detectors have to be installed in children's rooms and bedrooms as well as in corridors and on escape routes.
In the event of a fire, especially at night, you often only have seconds to get outside due to the smoke. “Carbon monoxide is produced in a fire. Three breaths are enough for the body to become heavy.” The warning from the smoke detector increases the time it takes to escape, says Schäfer.
Tobias Schäfer, also district master chimney sweep for another sweeping district in Münden, experiences something similar: "Many people install smoke detectors, but often do it wrong." They would have to be installed in the middle of the room. There are also differences between the models. It is important to use standardized detectors that last around ten years without the battery having to be changed.
Owners have a duty
In Lower Saxony, about 13 percent of all households are adequately equipped with smoke detectors, 16 percent have installed them incorrectly. This is the result of a survey by the Lower Saxony state guild association of chimney sweeps, for which more than 5,300 owners and residents of single and multi-family houses were interviewed. According to district master chimney sweep Jürgen Schäfer, the owner is responsible for installation and maintenance.
What needs to be considered when installing and maintaining smoke detectors
Münden's district master chimney sweeps Jürgen Schäfer and Tobias Schäfer know what needs to be considered when purchasing, installing and maintaining them.
Smoke detectors can now be bought almost everywhere, whether online or in hardware stores. But not all are the same, says Jürgen Schäfer. When buying, you should pay attention to the CE mark, but above all to the designation "Q-Melder". Because CE marks could easily be forged. These detectors cost between 20 and 30 euros.
At first glance, this is expensive, but it would be worth it compared to the simple smoke detectors, where the battery usually has to be replaced every year. In addition, according to Schäfer, the "quality smoke detectors" often have real-time clocks. This means that the indicator light on the detector is not as bright at night. Chimney sweeps can also get the smoke detectors, say the two district master chimney sweeps. "Most of the time we always have some with us," says Jürgen Schäfer.
The owner can install the detectors himself or hire a professional, such as a chimney sweep, to do this.
Smoke detectors have to be in a certain position in the room in order to work properly, explains Jürgen Schäfer. Typically, they would be mounted on the ceiling in the center of the room, about 2 feet away from furniture and lamps. But that varies depending on the floor plan of the apartment. According to the Lower Saxony state building regulations, detectors must be installed in bedrooms, children's rooms and in all corridors or on escape routes to the outside.
During installation, the chimney sweep pays attention to where potential fire loads are, how the smoke would move in the event of a fire and how many detectors are required in a room. Because they can only cover a certain length, which is why two smoke detectors should often be installed, especially in long corridors, says Jürgen Schäfer. This is extremely important in the event of a fire, because if smoke detectors are installed incorrectly, they cannot warn in good time.
The tenant is responsible for checking that the smoke detectors are working properly. Maintenance can also be outsourced to external service providers.
However, the owner or landlord must document the maintenance by the tenant in writing in order to be able to prove that the smoke detectors have been checked regularly in the event of damage, says Jürgen Schäfer.
The test button can be used to check whether the detector is still working. "The manufacturer can check how often this button was triggered, should this be necessary after a case of damage."
"Contrary to what many people think, a smoke detector does not belong in the household waste", says Jürgen Schäfer. Instead, they can be returned where they were bought. This is one of the reasons why the so-called Q detectors are more sustainable, as they only stop working after ten to twelve years. "With smoke detectors that run on 9 volt batteries, the batteries have to be replaced about once a year." That is more expensive in the long run and more waste is produced.
Although smoke detectors are mandatory in residential areas in Lower Saxony, there is no public body that checks this, reports Jürgen Schäfer. If he notices that there are no detectors in an apartment, he can only point this out to people.
"It would make sense to be able to report that," says Tobias Schäfer. In any case, it is worth equipping your home with detectors because they are inexpensive, easy to install and save lives in an emergency. "Each household without a smoke detector is already one too many," says the district master chimney sweep. (By Natascha Terjung)