How to test the health of your smoke alarm

February 07 2019

We’ve all seen the ads that ask: ‘When’s the last time you checked your smoke alarm?’. But, with our busy, modern lives it’s rarely at the top of our to-do list.

In fact, in UK fires in 2016/17, the government reported 12% of alarms with faulty batteries and 10% without any batteries at all*.

When you add that to the Fire Service statistic saying you’re twice as likely to die in a house fire without a working alarm**, it seems like a no-brainer to take ten minutes out of your day to test yours. Here’s our five easy steps to keep your smoke alarm fighting fit, and you and your family safe:

Check their batteries
This is the one we hear time and time again, and it only takes a minute. Simply press and hold the button on the alarm, either on the front or side, and you should hear the smoke alarm beeping. If the sound is weak or you don’t hear a noise at all, it’s time to replace the battery. You should test it at least once every six months.

Scope their location
Alarms should be fitted as close to the centre of the room as you can - at least 30cm or 12 inches away from light fittings and walls where possible. Be sure to place alarms close enough to your bedroom, so you can hear the noise when you’re asleep. It’s also good to have one in rooms with large electrical appliances like TVs.

Get the right type
There are lots of different types of alarms. But the rules set by the Fire Service for which type you should have in which room are: heat alarms in kitchens and garages, combined smoke and heat on landings, and optical smoke alarms in bedrooms, living rooms and hallways. If you’re not sure, you can find out more in-depth information here: https://www.london-fire.gov.uk/safety/the-home/smoke-alarms-and-heat-alarms/

Keep them dusted
Dust can often build up on smoke alarms, especially if they haven’t been tested for a while. This covers and blocks their sensors, meaning they may not work properly in the event of a fire. Be sure to include them in your cleaning routine.

Know their age
Knowing the age of your alarms is crucial to keep them working properly. It’s recommended that you should change the battery every year – unless it’s a ten-year alarm. After ten years you should replace the smoke alarm completely.

Add monitoring
If you’ve got pets in the house, or children who might be home alone, you can always install a monitored alarm to give yourself peace of mind. It means as soon as a fire is detected, you and your nominated keyholders will be contacted along with the fire service. See the full package from ADT here: https://www.adt.co.uk/home-security-products/fire-and-smoke-alarms

Remember, if you’re ever unsure, your local fire service will often come out and check your alarms for free. Along with providing advice on the placement and type of alarms you should have in your home. You can find your local station here: http://www.cfoa.org.uk/frs

It’s also good to note there are free smoke alarm checks for older people through charities like Age UK, and if you’re a renter your letting agents should be trained up on their maintenance.

* https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/fire-statistics-data-tables
** https://www.fireservice.co.uk/safety/smoke-alarms/

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