Feb 02 2011

Smoke Alarms

Many fire related deaths are caused by people being overcome by smoke and fumes, not just burns. Therefore, 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 £10 and can be bought at most supermarkets, DIY stores and electrical equipment shops.

Alternatively, London Fire Brigade is offering all Londoners a free home fire safety visit. Get in touch and they will visit your home, provide fire safety advice and fit free smoke alarms if you need them.

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.
  • Always put smoke alarms where you will be able to hear them throughout the home, particularly when you are asleep or when doors are closed.
  • If your home has only one level (storey), fit the alarm between the living area and bedrooms.
  • If your home has more than one level (storey), fit one alarm at the bottom of the staircase and further alarms on each landing.
  • Fit smoke alarms on the ceiling, as near as possible to the centre of the room, hallway or landing. The smoke alarm should be at least 30cm (12 inches) away from any wall or light fitting.
  • Make sure you can reach your smoke alarm easily to test it each week – avoid fitting it directly over a staircase.
  • Follow the manufacturers’ instructions on how to fit your smoke alarm and change the battery.

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.
  • Don’t fit your smoke alarm on damp or dusty surfaces or false ceilings as there is a risk it will fall down.

Testing your smoke alarm

When a smoke alarm has been fitted it is vital that you test it regularly to ensure it works properly.

Once a week: Test your smoke alarm each week using the test button.

Every six months: Open the case and gently vacuum the inside to remove dust from the sensor. If the smoke alarm doesn’t open, vacuum through the holes.

Once a year:  Change the battery every year (unless it is a ten year alarm) or when you need to.


Replace the battery in your smoke alarm if the low battery warning sounds (an intermittent bleep). It is also best to replace smoke alarms with completely new units after 10 years.

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. London Fire Brigade can also fit specialist smoke alarms for you as part of a home fire safety visit.

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