Smoke alarms

Double your chance of escaping a fire with these handy tips.

Smoke alarms save lives

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Did you know you can cut the risk of dying in a house fire by 50% with a working smoke alarm? Smoke alarms will alert you, and anyone else in the building, if there is a fire. This extra time could make all the difference and allow you and your family to escape from danger.

It’s scary but true that 36% of fire related incidents in 2016 and 2017 happened in buildings with no smoke alarm at all. And for those homes that do have a smoke alarm, an estimated third of residents have never tested them.

The fact is that you’re twice as likely to die in a house fire if there are no working smoke alarms.

When a smoke alarm sounds you have around 2 minutes to make your escape. After this, fires spread fast, making a safe escape very difficult. Make sure that you and your family can escape quickly, with a smoke alarm on every floor of your home.


4 tips to maintain your smoke alarm

Protect your family easily and cheaply with a working smoke alarm.

Make sure your alarm will work in the event of a fire with these four safety checks.

1. Once a month – test your smoke alarm batteries
Press and hold the test button until it beeps to see if the batteries are still working. No beep? Replace your batteries immediately.

2. Every 6 months – dust off your alarm
A dusty smoke alarm stops smoke reaching the internal sensor. Keep your smoke alarm clean by gently brushing or vacuuming it twice a year.

3. Every year – replace your batteries
Change your batteries every 12 months, to reduce the risk of an alarm failure from missing or dead batteries.

4. Every 10 years – replace your alarm
After 10 years your smoke alarm has been working continually for over 87,000 hours. The sensors will be polluted with dust and dirt, even if they look clean. Be safe. Replace the whole alarm every 10 years – or ask your landlord to do so.


burning-cable - smoke alarms save lives

Electricity is dangerous

Faulty electrics such as bad wiring, appliances and overloaded sockets are responsible for more than half of all fires in the UK each year. Look out for clues such as flickering lights, hot plugs and sockets, scorch marks and fuses that trip for no obvious reasons.

If you or someone you know tampers with electrical equipment, such as bypassing an electricity meter, exposed wires and connections can get very hot. This is a common cause of serious fires. You can report any of you concerns about tampering to Stay Energy Safe anonymously – make sure that you speak up and stay safe.

Tampered meters can also cause appliances to become ‘live’ to touch, making them overheat and malfunction. Anyone who touches them is at risk of electric shocks and burns, and there is also a very serious chance of a fire starting.

If you’re struggling to pay bills, tampering with your meter or substituting heating and lighting for candles and flames puts you at a higher risk of a fire outbreak. For more information for what you can do if you need extra support with your energy bills, read this article: Save money on bills

Check out more stories about the dangers of electricity tampering on our website too.

Frequently asked questions


  • Who can install smoke alarms?

There are two main types of smoke alarms – standard or mains-powered. A qualified electrician will have to install a mains-powered alarm, which are mandatory in all new buildings and after major refurbishments.

You can fit a standard smoke alarm yourself using a small number of standard tools. The installation instructions should be included with device and will vary depending on the brand. If in doubt, you may be able to find the instructions for your particular alarm by searching the web.

  • Why is my smoke alarm bleeping?

If your smoke alarm is intermittently beeping or “chirping” every so often, it most likely means that the battery needs to be replaced. If you replace the old batteries with fresh ones and the beeping persists, there are a number of other troubleshooting techniques you can try. If in doubt, it may be worth replacing the entire device to make sure you are protected.

  • How many smoke alarms do I need?

The reality is that fires can start in any room of the house, even while some are at higher risk than others, such as the kitchen. To avoid leaving anything to chance, you should try to fit a smoke alarm in every room of the house (except bathrooms, where steam may be responsible for falsely triggering the alarm).

At a minimum, you should have at least one alarm for every floor of the house. They should be installed on the ceilings in the centre of the room, or as close as possible, and at least a foot away from walls and light fixtures. For maximum safety, the alarm should be placed close enough to where members of the household sleep so that the sound would be loud enough to wake someone up in the event of an emergency.

  • What types of smoke alarms are available?

The features of a smoke alarm vary depending on the type. Currently there are 4 main types: optical, heat, ionisation and combined.

Optical alarms are able to detect slow-burning fires as they are sensitive to larger particles of smoke. You can install these close to kitchens, as it’s less common for them to go off when toast is burned, for example.

Heat alarms do not detect smoke, but can detect an increase in temperature that suggests a fire. These are good to install in kitchens, but only cover a small range, so you may need to install multiple devices in a big room.

Ionisation alarms are affordable and effective detectors. They can detect the small particles of smoke that are produced by a fast-burning fire and will sound the alarm before the smoke gets too thick. However, these may be too sensitive to install in or near kitchens for that reason.

Combined alarms usually combine optical and heat alarms – these are therefore more accurate, detect fires quicker and can reduce false alarms. Combined alarms might also include a carbon monoxide detector.

For more information on the types available, visit the Fire Service website.

  • Can I get free smoke alarms?

Yes! You can book a free ‘Safe and Well’ visit with your local fire service who will assess the fire safety of your home. If you need alarms installed, they’ll do this for you during the visit, free of charge.

Get in touch with your local fire service to find out more and book your visit.


Help with smoke alarms

If you’re renting your home, it’s a legal requirement for your landlord to have at least one smoke alarm installed on each floor of the property. If your landlord hasn’t supplied smoke alarms, ask them to install one on each floor of your home, and remind them that it’s the law!

If your landlord fails to comply, they could face fines of up to £5,000.

Visit the Fire Service website for more information on the types of smoke alarm available, where you can buy them and how to install them.

If you’re worried about forgetting to test your smoke alarms, you can set up a free smoke alarm reminder with Safelincs.

Report anonymously

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