You are more than twice as likely to die in a fire at home if you haven't got a smoke alarm. A smoke alarm is the easiest way to alert you to the danger of fire, giving you precious time to escape. They are cheap, easy to get hold of and easy to fit.
How many do you need? The more alarms you have, the safer you'll be. At minimum you should have one on each floor. However, if you have only one alarm and two floors, put it somewhere you'll be able to hear it when you're asleep.
If you have a TV or other large electrical appliance (such as a computer) in any of the bedrooms, you should fit a smoke alarm there too.
Choosing a smoke alarm there are two types of smoke alarm:
These are the cheapest and most readily available and are very sensitive to flaming fires (ones that burn fiercely such as chip-pan fires). Ionisation alarms will detect flaming fires before the smoke gets too thick.
These are more expensive and more effective at detecting slow-burning fires (such as 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.
British Standard Kitemark 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.
The different models available, A lot of people forget to check their smoke alarms, so the best choice of power supply is usually the one that lasts longest.
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.
Alarms with 10-year batteries,
These are slightly more expensive, but you save on the cost of replacing batteries. They are available as ionisation or optical alarms and are fitted with a long-life lithium battery or a sealed power pack that lasts for 10 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.
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 10 years and can be silenced or tested by the light switch.
Where to buy your smoke alarm?
We do not sell smoke alarms but you can buy them from any good supermarket, DIY or hardware store.
Installing your smoke alarm Installing a smoke alarm only takes a few minutes - just follow the manufacturer's instructions that come with it. The best place is on the ceiling, near or at the middle of the room or hall. The alarm should be at least 30cm (one foot) away from a wall or light.
If it's difficult for you to fit yourself, ask a family member or friend to help you, or contact us.
Keeping your smoke alarms in good working order protects you and your family against fire. By pressing the test button on your alarm you can check if the battery in your smoke alarm is still charged and find out if your alarm is ready and working. However, it is just too easy to forget this crucial test.
Maintaining your smoke alarm, To keep your smoke alarm in good working order, you should:
test it once a week, by pressing the test button until the alarm sounds
change the battery once a year (unless it's a ten-year alarm)
replace the whole unit every ten years
clean your smoke alarm once every three months using the soft brush of your vacuum cleaner. This will ensure you remove any excess dust or insects.
Making an Escape Plan
Preparing and practising a plan of action will help you act quickly if there's a fire in your home, it could even save your life. Find out how to make an escape plan, including tips on making a bedtime fire safety check.
Make an escape plan, explain it to everyone in the household and practise it. When you make an escape plan, involve everyone who lives in your home, including children, older or disabled people and any lodgers.
Choosing an escape route, Here are some tips to help plan your escape from fire:
the best escape route is the normal way in and out of your home
think of any difficulties you may have getting out, e.g. at night you may need to have a torch to light your way
choose a second escape route, in case the first one is blocked
keep all exits clear of obstructions, like bicycles
if there are children, older or disabled people or pets, plan how you will get them out
Think about a safe place to go if you can't escape,
The first priority is to keep people safe by getting them out of the building. If you can't escape, you'll need to find a room to take refuge in. This is especially important if you have difficulty moving around or going downstairs on your own.
Make sure everyone knows where door and window keys are kept,
Decide where the keys to doors and windows should be kept and always keep them there. Make sure everyone in your household knows where they are.
Explain the plan once you have made your plan, go through it with everyone in the household.
You could also:
put a reminder of what to do in a fire somewhere where it will be seen regularly, like on the fridge door
put your address by the phone so that children can read it out to the emergency services
Practise the plan, make sure you have 'walked through' the plan with everyone in your household. Regularly remind everyone of what to do, and what not to do, in the event of a fire.
Do a bedtime check and develop the habit when you are asleep, it takes longer to notice the signs of a fire. If you don't have a working smoke alarm, there will be nothing to wake you.
To help prevent fires occurring through the night, it's important to check your home for fire hazards before you go to bed. Make sure you:
close inside doors at night to stop a fire from spreading
check the cooker is turned off
turn off and unplug electrical appliances (unless they are meant to be left on, like your freezer)
put candles and cigarettes out properly
turn heaters off and put up fireguards
make sure exits are kept clear
Keep your guests safe from fire, your family or housemates may be familiar with your house or flat, but your guests may not be. If you have guests staying overnight:
tell them where the keys are kept
give them information about anything in the house they may not be familiar with, like how to unlock your front door
It's particularly important to provide some fire safety information if you are hosting a party and people are drinking alcohol. Also, the risk of fire during celebrations may be higher from candles, cooking and cigarettes.
Escaping from a high-rise building living above the first floor doesn't necessarily make you any more at risk from fire. High-rise flats are built to be fire-proof, walls, ceilings and doors will hold back flames and smoke.
Most of your planning should be the same as homes at ground level, but there are some key differences:
you won't be able to use the lift if there's a fire, so choose an escape route that takes this into account
count how many doors there are on the route to get to the stairs when you can’t use the lift, in case you can't find your way
make sure stairways and fire escapes are kept clear of all obstructions and that fire doors are never locked
regularly check that you can open the doors to stairways or escapes from both sides
If there's a fire elsewhere in the building, you are usually safest in your own flat, unless heat or smoke is affecting you.
GET OUT, STAY OUT, CALL 999 or 112