Smoke alarms in the home

January 27, 2012

Landlord Information

It is really important to make sure you have smoke alarms fitted in your home, you are twice as likely to die from a smoke alarm that doesn’t work in your home.

Smoke alarms are there to warn you of the early stages of fire, they are there to give you time to escape.

Do you need more than one smoke alarm?

One smoke alarm is the minimum to have in your home. If you are only going to have one make sure you can hear it when you are upstairs.

Ideally, if you have computers in rooms or any other large electrical items you should have smoke alarms in each of the rooms.

Check your alarms weekly just to make sure that they are continuing to work properly.

Smoke alarms are really easy to fit and install in your home, they should be at least one foot away from a wall or light.

If you don’t feel confident doing it yourself, some fire and rescue services in England offer free fire risk checks and they may also be able to fit your smoke alarm for free.

Maybe also consider friends or family who may be able to help you.

There are two types of smoke alarm and there are many different models available.

Ionisation alarms

Ionisation alarms are the cheapest and most readily available smoke alarms. They are also very sensitive to ‘flaming fires’ – fires that burn fiercely, like chip-pan fires. Ionisation alarms will detect flaming fires before the smoke gets too thick.*

Optical alarms

Optical alarms are more expensive. However, they are more effective at detecting slow-burning fires, like smouldering foam-filled furniture or overheated wiring. Optical alarms are less likely to go off accidentally and so are best for ground-floor hallways and for homes on one level.

For the best protection, you should install one of each. However, if you can’t have both, it’s still safer to have either one, rather than none at all.

Whichever model you choose, you should make sure that it meets British Standard 5446, Part 1 (BS 5446-1) and ideally also carries the British Standard Kitemark. Your local fire and rescue service will help you decide which is best for your circumstances if you would like some advice.*

British Standard Kitemark

Standard-battery alarms

An ‘ionisation battery alarm’ is the cheapest and most basic smoke alarm available. An ‘optical battery alarm’ is a little more expensive. Both run off 9-volt batteries.*

Battery alarms with an emergency light

These come fitted with an emergency light which comes on when the alarm is triggered. They are particularly suitable if someone in your house has hearing difficulties and may help light up an escape route.*

Alarms with ten-year batteries

These are slightly more expensive, but you save on the cost of replacing batteries. They are available as ionisation/optical alarms and are fitted with a long-life lithium battery, or a sealed power pack that lasts for ten years.*

Models with a ‘hush’ or ‘silence’ button

Some models are available with a ‘hush’ button which will silence the alarm for a short time. This can be used when cooking, for example. If there is a real fire, giving off lots of smoke, the hush system is overridden and the alarm sounds. These models will continue to remind you they have been silenced by ‘chirping’ or by displaying a red light.*

Mains-powered alarms

These are powered by your home’s electricity supply and need to be installed by qualified electricians. There’s no battery to check, although they are available with battery back-up in case of a power cut.*

Interconnecting or linked alarms

Some alarms can be connected to each other so that when one senses smoke, all the alarms in the property sound. They are useful for people with hearing difficulties and also in larger homes.*

Mains-powered alarm with strobe light and vibrating pad

These are designed for people who are deaf or have hearing difficulties. If there’s a fire, the alarm alerts you with a flashing light and vibrating pad – which is placed beneath your pillow.*

Mains-powered alarm which plugs into a light socket

This type of alarm uses a rechargeable battery that charges up when the light is switched on. It lasts for ten years and can be silenced or tested by the light switch.*

Keep your smoke alarms working

Test your alarms once a week, make sure you press the test button until the alarm sounds.

The battery must be changed every year, but some are ten year alarms so don’t need changing that often.

The whole alarm must be replaced every 10 years.


*Info from Direct Gov

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