Health & Safety
Smoke Alarms at Home
4 November 2010
Dozens of people die each year because they haven't got Smoke Alarms in their home or their Smoke Alarm didn't work. Many fire related deaths are caused by people being overcome by smoke and fumes, not just burns.
The UK Fire and Rescue Service strongly urges residents to ensure they have a smoke alarm fitted and in good working order to prevent fire deaths and injuries.
A working smoke alarm is essential.
- It provides vital early warning and extra time to escape if there is a fire.
- Every home should have at least one working smoke alarm.
- They cost around £5 - £10 and can be bought at most supermarkets, DIY stores and electrical equipment shops.
- You are twice as likely to die in a fire at home if you haven't got a smoke alarm.
- Smoke alarms are the single piece of equipment most likely to save you from a fire by giving you precious time to escape.
Excuses kill. Fit a smoke alarm now.
- It's not your landlord's responsibility.
- Don't rely on your dog to wake you up.
- A fire will not wake a light sleeper.
Many people who have smoke alarms are in danger too. The alarm could be in the wrong place, there may not be enough smoke alarms for the size of their home, they may not have checked their alarm recently or the batteries could be missing.
How Many Smoke Alarms Do you Need?
If you choose to fit only one smoke alarm, put it where you will be able to hear it throughout your home - particularly when you are asleep.
- If you live on one level, fit the smoke alarm in the hallway between the living and sleeping areas.
- If your home has more than one level, fit the smoke alarm at the top of the stairs which leads to the bedrooms.
The more alarms you have around your home the safer you will be.
Where is the best place to put a smoke alarm?
- The best place is on the ceiling as near as possible to the centre of the room, hallway or landing. It should be at least 12 inches (30 centimetres) away from any wall or light.
- If it is difficult for you to fit a smoke alarm, ask a neighbour or family member to install it for you.
- Make sure you can reach your smoke alarm easily to test it each week - avoid fitting it directly over a staircase.
Where not to fit your smoke alarm
- Don't fit your smoke alarm in or near to the kitchen or bathroom as it could be set off accidentally by cooking fumes and steam.
- Don't fit your smoke alarm in a garage where it could be set off accidentally by exhaust fumes.
Choosing a smoke alarm and installing it
- Choose a smoke alarm that complies with the British Standard (BS EN 14604:2005) and carries the British Standard Kitemark or LPCB 'Horseshoe' mark.
- Follow the manufacturers' instructions on how to fit your smoke alarm and change the battery.
Smoke alarms for the deaf
You can also buy smoke alarms that have a vibrating pad or a flashing light if you have difficulty hearing. The Royal National Institute for the Deaf and provide detailed information.
Testing and Maintaining your Smoke Alarm
- Once a week - Check the battery by pressing the test button.
- Once a year - Change your battery or fit a battery with a 10 year life.
- Once a year - Vacuum and wipe the smoke alarm casing to ensure dust isn't blocking the sensor chamber. (For mains alarms, switch off first)
- Replacement - Replace the battery in your smoke alarm if the low battery warning sounds (an intermittent bleep). It is alsobest to replace smoke alarms with completely new unitsafter 10 years.
- Warning - Many people either forget to check their smoke alarms or find it difficult to climb up and check them - so the battery runs out. Dozens of people die each year because their smoke alarm didn't work! - Don't be one of them!
- Whatever happens - never remove the battery to use it for other purposes.
Dead batteries can be replaced, dead families cannot. You can save yourself the worry by getting a mains powered alarm fitted, with a battery back up in case of power cuts.
Home Fire Safety Visit
Many of the UK's Regional Fire and Rescue Services are offering a free "Home Fire Safety Visit". Get in touch and they will visit your home, provide fire safety advice and some will fit free smoke alarms if you need them.