Smoke Alarms - Push the Button! Not your Luck
Every day someone dies in a fire because they didn't have a working smoke alarm. While most homes now have smoke alarms, many are unable to do their job properly due to flat or missing batteries.
Maintain your smoke alarm!
- Check the battery once a month by pressing the red 'Test' button either by hand or with the end of a broom handle and change it once a year. Remember - 'Push the Button! Not your Luck'.
- Remember- beeping alarms can be a sign that the battery needs replacing.
- Don't be tempted to take batteries out of detectors at Christmas or birthdays to power children's toys!
- Gently run the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner or duster over the 'grill' of the smoke detector once or twice a year, to help keep it free from dust and grime.
- After 10 years- it's best to buy a whole new smoke alarm.
Smoke Alarms - know the facts!
Most fires start at night and the real killer is smoke. If you are asleep and you don't have a smoke alarm to wake you up, your chances of survival are virtually zero. Smoke alarms are cheap, easy to install and give you vital extra time to escape.
- A basic smoke alarm costs as little as £5 (Always buy an alarm which has the British Standard Kitemark on it, which is BS 5446, Part One.) You can buy Smoke Alarms in most high street stores, supermarkets, and DIY and electrical shops.
- Fit them where you can hear them throughout your home.
- Good places are at the top of the staircase, hallways, corridors or landings.
- Don't fit smoke alarms next to cooking areas or near bathrooms, where smoke or steam can set them off accidentally.
- Try and have one on every floor of your home.
- If your alarm keeps going off while you are cooking- move it further away from the kitchen or buy an alarm with a 'hush' button- this will silence the alarm for a short time if it goes off accidentally.
- If you need help with fitting your alarm, contact your local Fire and Rescue Service for advice.
Where to fit smoke alarms
Smoke alarms are simply screwed into the ceiling and should be fitted at least 30 centimetres (12 inches) away from any wall or light fitting and as close to the centre of the room, hallway or landing ceiling as possible. (Always read the manufacturers' instructions before fitting).
If your home is on one level, for minimum protection you should fit an alarm in the hallway between the living and sleeping areas.
If your home has more than one floor, for minimum protection one alarm should be fitted at the bottom of the staircase with further alarms fitted on each stair landing.
If you choose to fit a single alarm in a home with more than one level, care should be taken to ensure that it is fitted where it can be heard throughout your home - particularly when you are asleep. Normally this would be at the top of the stairs. Although ionisation and optical alarms are equally effective, optical alarms may be preferred in this particular situation as they are especially good at detecting slow-burning or smouldering fires.
Important: The manufacturers' instructions should be followed at all times, particularly where mains powered alarms are to be installed.
Types of smoke alarm
There are two main types of smoke alarm currently available -
optical. There are strengths and weaknesses of both types.
These are the cheapest type available, they are very sensitive to small particles of smoke produced by flaming fires and will detect this type of fire before the smoke gets too thick. They are, however, a little less effective where there is a slow burning or smouldering fire, which gives off larger quantities of smoke before flaming occurs.
These are more expensive but are more effective at detecting the larger particles of smoke produced by slow burning fires such as smouldering foam-filled furniture.
Which ones best for me?
The following hierarchy of smoke alarms is set out in ascending order of cost and functionality;
1. Ionisation alarm fitted with a one-year battery, which requires changing each year. This type is ideally suited for you if you have the ability, both physical and financial, and the motivation, to change the battery.
2. Ionisation alarm fitted with a one-year battery and has a hush button. The hush button means you can cancel the alarm after an accidental alert without, having to remove the battery.
3. Optical alarm fitted with a one-year battery. The problems relating to battery replacement remain with this option. Nuisance alarms may be expected to be similar to 2.
4. Ionisation or optical alarms as in 2 and 3 above, but with the alarms fitted with lithium batteries with a ten-year life. This option is more suitable where the likelihood of battery replacement is not high, such as with elderly people, those of low incomes and those in social housing. It is important that there is awareness of the need to replace the unit at the appropriate time.
5. Mains powered smoke alarms with battery back-up. These are ideal for high-risk groups and for social housing projects for the elderly and infirm. Such alarms should be installed so as to comply with BS 7671 and the installation should only be carried out by qualified and competent electricians, i.e. members of the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) or the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation (NICEIC) registered persons.
6. Mains only powered smoke alarms. Such units are available but are not generally considered to be an improvement on the lithium-battery-powered alarms referred to in 4 above. Further information is available in BS 5839 : Part 6, paragraphs 5.1 and 5.2.
Purchase and do-it-yourself installation of battery-powered alarms by members of the public are heavily dependent upon the quality of the instructions provided with the units.
For any further information on smoke detectors or to speak to a Fire Safety Officer, please call us on 01438 737399 or 01923 471399
HCC is not responsible for the content of external web sites.