Smoke alarms
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Smoke alarms - raise the alarm

Positioning, maintaining and testing smoke detectors in your home

Fact: Smoke alarms save lives!

 

They will wake you up, give you that essential early warning and time to escape, but only if they are fitted and working correctly.

You should have smoke alarms fitted on every level of your home. They give you vital time to ‘get out, stay out and call 999’ if ever you’re unlucky enough to have a fire.

It’s crucial that you test them regularly – we advise once a week. Follow us on Twitter, for our #testittuesday reminders.


How many smoke alarms do I need?

As a minimum, fit one smoke alarm on every floor of your home, ideally on the ceiling of a hallway or landing.

In rooms, particularly bedrooms, where you have electrical equipment  (a television, games console or where you charge items), remember that if the detector is outside the room on the landing and the door to the room is closed, it will take more time for the smoke from a fire inside the room to get out and reach the alarm, so consider fitting smoke alarms in these rooms.   

If you have a spare room where no-one sleeps and there are no electrical appliances in that room, then that room is unlikely to have a fire so it may not need a smoke alarm.


Where should you put smoke alarms?

Smoke alarms can be put in all rooms, except the kitchen and the bathroom as the smoke from cooking and steam from hot water can cause "false alarms".

Smoke alarms should be positioned 30 centimetres away from walls and light fittings. This is because light fittings attract dust, which can cause false alarms, and sometimes smoke doesn't go right into the corner of the ceiling in the early stages of a fire.


Looking after your smoke alarm

  • once a week - test the battery. Press the button until the alarm sounds    
  • once a year - change the battery (unless it's a long life alarm) - use family birthdays, or a special occasion, to remind you to change it
  • twice a year - open the case and gently vacuum the inside to remove dust from the sensors. If it doesn't open, vacuum through the holes    
  • after 10 years - replace your alarm with a whole new unit
    

Sealed detector units will have an expiry date on and will need to be replaced entirely.

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

If you have trouble fitting or testing your smoke alarm ask a friend, family member, neighbour or carer to test it for you.

Do you know someone that may struggle to fit or check their smoke alarm? Could be a friend, neighbour, or family member, why not check theirs too.


Keep a smoke alarm test record

Keep a printed copy of our smoke alarm test record on a wall near your smoke alarm, so you can keep a record of its maintenance schedule. It includes some useful general fire safety reminders too.

Download your smoke alarm test record.

Bleeping smoke alarms

If your smoke alarm is making an intermittent bleeping/chirping noise, please follow these steps:

  • check that your smoke alarm is definitely the source of the bleeping/chirping; make sure the noise isn't coming from another alarm (smoke/carbon monoxide/gas/burglar alarm) by process of elimination

  • clean the alarm as per the instructions above

  • test the alarm by pressing the 'test' button

  • change the battery (unless it's a ten-year alarm) or a hard-wired alarm


Smoke alarms - landlords and tenants

New safety laws for landlords came into force on 1st October 2015.  The new safety laws make it compulsory for all landlords to fit smoke alarms in rented homes, as well as offering protection against carbon monoxide poisoning.

The new safety laws make it compulsory for all landlords to:

  • fit at least one smoke alarm on each floor of their premises

  • fit a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms containing a solid fuel appliance

  • check that all alarms are working when a new tenancy starts - with potential penalties of up to £5,000 if they don’t comply.


Landlords must check the alarms are working at the start of every new tenancy with potential penalties of up to £5,000 if they don't comply.

Tenants are required to check the alarms are in working order and notify the landlord if they identify any problems.


Smoke alarm support for deaf and hard of hearing people

Conventional smoke alarms work by emitting a loud noise when smoke is detected, providing the vital early warning of fire, and therefore aiding escape. 

People who are deaf or hard of hearing need additional ways of making them aware the alarm has been activated, including vibrating pads and flashing strobe lights.

Deaf people need to place a vibrating pad under their mattress or pillow at night. If smoke is detected, the alarm will sound and set off the pad to assist in waking them.

British Standard BS5446-3:2005 specifies smoke alarm kits for deaf and hard of hearing people. Products made to this standard give deaf people assurance of quality smoke alarms designed to meet their needs.

For further information about BSI standard smoke alarms for deaf and hard of hearing people, please contact RNID Products on telephone 0870 789 8855 or visit the RNID's shop.

For information on deafness and hearing loss please contact RNID on 0808 808 0123.

Elsewhere on the web

  • Buy smoke alarms and home safety equipment from BlueWatch
  • Register for the Safelincs free smoke alarm reminder service

Related resources

Download our useful guides to help you ensure your home is safe: