This article continues the range of Aico Tips / Q&A which answer the following questions:
- What is a smoke alarm and how to choose one?
- What do the Building Regulations say about the Smoke Alarms?
- How do you select the correct fire detection system from the optical / ionisation / heat alarms?
- How do you fit your smoke alarm and how to look after it? – answered below, with some Aico Tips
Self contained smoke alarms are simply screwed into the ceilings and should be fitted as close to the centre of the entrance hall or room as possible , but at least 30 centimetres (12 inches) away from any wall or light fitting. In escape routes there should be a detector within 1.5 metres of the entrance to all habitable rooms and any cupboards that pose a fire risk, in some situations this may require additional smoke alarms.
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 but to achieve the 1.5 metres it may mean an additional smoke detector. If your home has more than one storey, the best place to fit it, is in the hallway close to the bottom of the staircase, and a second alarm on the upstairs landing.
For extra protection you can fit alarms in any room where you think a fire may start, for example the lounge or bedroom. Do not fit a smoke alarm in the kitchen or bathroom, as the 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 if one senses smoke they will all sound an alarm.
If you are fitting a battery alarm then it is simple a DIY project but if you are fitting a mains alarm then you must employ the services of a qualified electrician. If an A, B, or C grade system is required to be fitted then you should involve the services of a competent fire alarm engineer.
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. Regular routine testing and maintenance is very important.
All smoke alarm systems should be tested at least monthly using the integral test button. Systems should also be checked if the occupier has been away or in the case of mains powered detectors, the power has failed.
Smoke alarms should be cleaned periodically in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations. Vacuum the inside of the alarm to ensure that dust isn’t blocking the sensor chamber.
Where experience shows that excessive levels of dust are compromising the effectiveness of the system, more frequent cleaning and servicing may be required.
Change the battery in the alarm when you hear the low level battery warning signal which could be one to ten years. Make a note of the date of the change. The life of a detector is about ten years and should be replaced after this period of time.
Smoke alarms for people with hearing impairment
Many people whose hearing is not severely impaired are still able to hear a conventional smoke alarm but it maybe a good idea to link two or more alarms to improve the warning signal coverage. 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 being particularly useful for deaf blind people.
Further information is available from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People. You may also find it useful to contact local voluntary organisations or the Social Services Department who may be able to offer advice and assistance on products specially designed to help people with disabilities
Further Information about the Smoke Alarms
For further information, help and advice go to your local council or fire brigade who will be happy to advise you on fire prevention and safety. If looking for a good electrician, ask friends and neighbours to introduce you to trustworthy people they know about.
Elderly people especially should try to have someone they know with them when they have someone, they don’t know, to call at their home.
Your local Age Concern or Citizens Advice Bureau can give advice on what local voluntary groups there are, which can help you, and what benefits may be due to you, their addresses and telephone numbers can be obtained from your local telephone directory or public library – or online.
- Never disconnect or take the batteries out of your alarm if it goes off by mistake.
- Battery operated alarms are the cheapest option, but the batteries may need to be replaced every year or when the low battery warning operates.
- A lot of people forget to check the batteries, so longer life batteries are better. An alarm with ten-year batteries is the best option.
- Mains-powered alarms are powered by your home power supply. Generally they don’t need replaceable batteries, but need to be installed by a qualified electrician.
- You can have linked alarms installed, so that when one alarm detects a fire they all go off together. This is useful if you live in a large house or over several levels.
- Don’t put smoke alarms in or near kitchens or bathrooms where smoke or steam can set them off by accident.
- If it is difficult for you to fit your alarm yourself contact your local Fire and Rescue Service for help.
- Make checking your smoke alarm part of your regular household routine. Test it by pressing the button until the alarm sounds. If it doesn’t sound it maybe defective or you need to replace the battery.
- If your smoke alarm starts to beep on a regular basis, you need to replace the battery immediately.
- If it is a ten year alarm, you will need to replace the whole alarm every ten years.
Where can you purchase the Aico Domestic Smoke Alarms? Visit the Domestic Fire Alarms section, and you will find these high quality smoke / heat / ionisation alarms – at the lowest prices.