🕑 6 minutes read

Time to perform that smoke alarm safety check?

How often have you woken up by a loud, persistent alarm?
Maybe, it has happened more times than you care to remember. Even though it can drive you crazy, you can be grateful that you and others have been alerted to a possible criminal act. The alarm may be sufficient to discourage wrongdoers and prevent theft or vehicle damage.

A smoke alarm going off is no different; not only will it save material possessions, but it will also save LIVES!
So, next time an alarm goes off, don't get angry, be both grateful and relieved that you have been warned of a potential risk to your life and the lives of others!

When was the last time you checked if your smoke alarms were working correctly?
A simple check (each month) could flag up early if the battery has run down. With a decent smoke alarm, you should get a ‘Beep’ every minute or so to let you know it’s time to change the battery. Ignore it at your peril!

Smoke alarms should be an integral part of any home occupation.

Having a quality smoke alarm installed in your home can and will save lives; it’s that important! It will give you the time needed to evacuate everyone on the property.

The fire service says a fire can quickly raise the temperature to 600 deg F. It’s not only flames that can cause serious injury or death but also the toxic fumes that are given off from burning furniture etc. A burning building may only allow you 2 minutes or less to reach safety!

This life-saving device is designed to detect the presence of smoke (including carbon monoxide). As soon as it makes, an audible alarm sounds to alert occupants to potential danger, giving you and your family or tenants time to get out safely.

Is it mandatory to install a smoke alarm?
From the 1st of October 2022 onward, installing CO alarms in rooms with fixed combustion appliances is a legal and mandatory requirement in the UK. All landlords with a gas supply or appliance on their property must comply with these new smoke and CO alarm regulations. Failure to do so, in the event of injury or death, will result in serious legal consequences!

A step-by-step guide to performing a smoke alarm safety check.

• Warn family members that you are about to test the alarm.
Unless you're instructing a fire drill, you should let everyone in the house know that you're testing the smoke detectors, so they don't panic when it’s triggered! If your smoke detector is hardwired into a monitored security system managed by an external security system company, please inform them of your fire drill; otherwise, their emergency service will arrive at the property. A false alarm could incur a call-out charge, which is not cheap!

• Get someone's help.
Can the alarm be heard inside a bedroom with the door closed?

• Make sure the smoke alarm can be heard in any room of the house.
It should be loud enough to wake the deepest sleeper. Therefore, ask everyone at home to stand in the room that’s farthest from the alarm whilst it’s tested. If the alarm can be heard from outside the property, even better. Passers-by could respond in an emergency.

• Perform a power test.
Most homeowners don't realise that smoke alarms require routine maintenance, just like any other appliance in your home. To keep your family safe, performing a monthly Smoke alarm health check is important.

One way to ensure your smoke alarm is working correctly is with a power test. Many smoke detectors have a light indicating when the unit is receiving power; you will still have to use the 'test' button. Once pressed and held for a few seconds, it should give a VERY loud response that will tell you the alarm battery has life in it. If it doesn't respond, change the battery or check the power supply to see if it’s hard-wired. To do so, call an electrician to check the wiring. That monthly test is important!

• Smoke sensor checks using an aerosol spray.
There are many spray sensors available for domestic and businesses to test a smoke alarm. One of the most critical aspects of smoke alarm care is testing the smoke sensor to ensure its functioning. So let's check it out.

The easiest way to test the smoke sensor is to use an aerosol spray designed specifically for smoke alarm testing. Shake the can well and hold it about 2 feet (61cm) away from the sensor and spray for 2-5 seconds. Wait for the alarm to respond; if it doesn’t, then it’s a fail! New batteries are needed, or an inspection by an electrician.

• Real smoke test.
If permitted in the manufacturer's instructions, test using actual smoke. You can use real smoke to test the smoke sensor. Follow the steps below.

Light two or three matches and hold them together. Be sure to keep matches a few feet away from the alarm to avoid damage. Smoke from the matches should sound the alarm if it is working properly. If it doesn’t, replace the batteries.

• Test the alarm once each month.
Engineers usually recommend testing your detectors each week but at least once a month should do it. Regardless of how often you test them, it's important to have a regular schedule to ensure that your detectors are in working order. Smoke alarm safety is not something to take lightly – by regularly testing your detectors; you know your family is protected.

Today's smoke detectors feature two or three A's or AA batteries that have approximately three times the energy of a 9V battery, which means they last longer. In addition, AA batteries are less likely to leak than 9V batteries, making them a safer option.

- Rid the alarm of dust.
Any dust residing over the sensors is not good, as it can render them inoperable. A quick dusting with a soft cloth can help to keep the sensors clear and ensure that the Smoke Alarm will function adequately in the event of a fire.

- Replace any old alarms.
Just how old are your smoke alarms? Do they conform to the latest BS standards? Age can play a part in determining how well they operate. Some smoke alarms have a battery life of around one year, after which they need to be replaced. However, there are some alarms that come with a ten-year life rating! Regardless of your type of alarm, it's important to keep an eye on the expiry date and replace batteries or the alarm as and when needed. By doing so, you can ensure that your smoke alarms will always be in good working condition.

Things to consider when installing smoke alarms.

• Right location.
Choosing the right location for your smoke alarm ensures that every occupant clearly hears the alarm.

First, make sure that the alarm is placed as close to the centre of the room as possible. This ensures smoke is detected from all four corners of the room.

Secondly, you want to ensure that the alarm is placed at least 30 cm or 12 inches away from light fixtures to prevent false alarms. Finally, position the alarm close enough to a bedroom or bedrooms so that it can be easily heard in the event of a fire.

• Install the correct type.
Ionisation and optical are two significant types of smoke alarms on the market. The difference between these two is: Ionisation alarms are more sensitive to smaller smoke particles, making them better at detecting fast-burning fires. Optical alarms, on the other hand, are more susceptible to large smoke particles, making them better at detecting smouldering fires. Both alarms are equally effective at saving lives, so choose wisely!

• Alarm monitoring.
Another option is to install a monitored smoke alarm. Monitored smoke alarms are connected to a central monitoring system, which means that you have 24/7 coverage and someone on duty to respond if the alarm is triggered.

What if you have a hardwired smoke alarm?

If your smoke alarms are hardwired into your home's electrical system, they should also be tested periodically using the test button.

Regularly checking your smoke alarms is an integral part of being a responsible homeowner or landlord. Testing them monthly and replacing them every 10 years helps to ensure your family or tenants are going to be safe in the event of a fire.

❌ Do not use incense sticks or candles to test a smoke detector - this can contaminate the sensor and reduce its sensitivity.
❌ Never decorate a smoke alarm with paint, stickers, etc. This can impair functionality.
❌ An alarm is merely a signaling device; it does not make the danger disappear - you and your household must take action to escape a fire. Discuss the subject with every member (including children) in your home, and be well-prepared with an escape plan in the event of a fire. It can save lives!

Ever had a fire in your home?
Some people we’ve spoken to say they have had a fire which caused extensive damage but luckily no loss of life or serious injury. When asked if they had a smoke alarm, the answer was NO! When pressed, they admitted that if smoke alarms were present, the extent of the damage would have been minimal!

Cheap and cheerful: Thinking of cutting corners, are we? If you are, here's something to consider. What price would you put on a toddler or family member's life? If your doing the maths, then you don’t give a flying fig! You cannot put a monetary figure on someone's life, but some people buy cheap smoke alarm imports that don’t conform to British Standards - a big risk!

Prices range from £10 to £60+ for a smoke alarm. Maybe a £10 smoke alarm is not capable of detecting the beginning of a fire that spreads quickly, which could result in suffocation or being burnt to death! If you are a penny pincher, then the good news is you will have saved a bundle on the cremation costs!

With proper smoke alarm installation, you will have another important layer of protection! That extra layer could mean the difference between life and death!

If you need help installing or maintaining your smoke alarms, don't hesitate to get in touch with serviceteam.

We are here 24/7 to help with your family’s safety!