Choosing a smoke alarm

There are many types of alarm available on the market and they cost from around £5.

You can buy them at most DIY, hardware and electrical shops.

Always look for an alarm which conforms to British Standard BS5839:Part 6, and which carries the kitemark.

How many smoke alarms?

If you live in a flat or bungalow, one smoke alarm should be enough to provide you with early warning of fire.

Where there is more than one storey, it is best to fit an alarm on each floor.

For additional protection, you can fit alarms in any room where you think a fire may start.

Do not fit an alarm in the kitchen or bathroom, as steam or cooking fumes may trigger the alarm. Cigarette smoke will not normally set off an alarm.

In some cases, you may be able to link more than one alarm together so that they will all sound together if only one of them senses smoke. You should check with an electrician before trying to link the alarms yourself.

Where to fit a smoke alarm

Smoke alarms are screwed into the ceiling, and should be fitted as close to the centre of the room as possible, but at least 30 cms (12 inches) away from any wall or light fitting.

You should always make sure that your alarm is fitted in a place where it can be heard throughout your home - particularly when you are asleep.

If your home is on one level, you should fit the alarm in the hallway between the living and sleeping areas.

If your home has more than one storey, the best place to fit one is at the bottom of the staircase, although for extra protection you should consider fitting a second alarm on the upstairs landing.

Smoke alarm maintenance

Smoke alarms need very little maintenance.

A few minutes of your time each year will ensure that your alarm is working and could help save the lives of you and your family.

Once a month

  • Check the battery by pressing the test button
  • Test the sensor by holding a recently extinguished candle or taper under the alarm

Once a year

  • Change the alarm battery and note the date
  • Vacuum the inside of the alarm to ensure that dust isn’t blocking the sensor chamber

Smoke alarms for hearing impaired people

If hearing is not severely impaired, it is a good idea to link two or more alarms.

This way, smoke detected in the living room will set off another alarm in the bedroom. An electrician will be able to advise you about linking the alarms.

For people who would not be able to hear a conventional smoke alarm, there are special devices available, which make use of a vibrating pad or flashing light instead of the auditory signal. The vibrating pad alarms are particularly useful for blind-deaf people.