Smoke alarms

If you don't have one GET ONE FITTED TODAY!

 Ironised Smoke Alarm imageOptical Smoke Alarm image

If you do have one installed TEST IT TODAY!

Statistics show you are more than twice as likely to die in a fire at home if you haven't got a working smoke alarm. Fitting a smoke alarm is the easiest way to alert you to the danger of a fire in your home, This will give you those extra minutes you may need to effect an escape. They are cheap, readily available and easy to fit.

How many smoke alarms do you need?

More is better, the more alarms you have, the safer you'll be - as long as you follow the simple rule of doing your weekly smoke alarm testing. The recommendations are that you should have at least one alarm on each floor of your home. However, if you decide to only have one alarm fitted and your home has two floors, put it somewhere you’ll be able to hear it when you're asleep. If you have a large electrical item, like a computer, in any of the bedrooms, you should fit a smoke alarm there too and make sure you test it weekly.

Installing your smoke alarm

Some fire and rescue services in England offer free home fire risk checks. This involves firefighters visiting your home and offering fire safety advice for you and your household. They may be able to install your smoke alarm for free.

Installation of your smoke alarm usually only takes a few minutes if you are able to install your smoke alarm yourself - simply follow the manufacturer's instructions. The best place for your smoke alarm is on the ceiling, near or at the middle of the room or hall. The alarm should be at least 30cm (one foot) away from a wall or light. See our FIRE DETECTION PAGE for more details about where and how you should install your smoke alarm
If it is difficult for you to fit your smoke alarm yourself, ask a family member or friend to help you, or contact your local Fire and Rescue Service. Just a little effort getting your smoke alarm fitted really is a life saver

Choosing a smoke alarm

There are two types of smoke alarm:

Ionisation alarms

Ionisation alarms are the cheapest and most readily available smoke alarms. They are also very sensitive to 'flaming fires' - fires that burn fiercely, like chip-pan fires. Ionisation alarms will detect flaming fires before the smoke gets too thick.

Optical alarms

Optical alarms are more expensive. However, they are more effective at detecting slow-burning fires, like smouldering foam-filled furniture or overheated wiring. Optical alarms are less likely to go off accidentally and so are best for ground-floor hallways and for homes on one level.

We would recommend for the best protection, you should install one of each. However, if you can’t have both, it’s still safer to have either one, rather than none at all.  Whichever type you choose, you should make sure that it meets British Standard 5446, Part 1 (BS 5446-1) and ideally also carries the British Standard Kitemark. Your local Fire and Rescue Service will help you decide which is best for your circumstances if you would like some advice. Their details can usually be found in your local telephone directory.

The different models available

Sadly most people forget to check their smoke alarms, so the best choice of power supply is usually the one that lasts longest.

Standard-battery alarms

An ‘ionisation battery alarm’ is the cheapest and most basic smoke alarm available. An ‘optical battery alarm’ is a little more expensive. Both run off 9-volt batteries.

Battery alarms with an emergency light

These types of smoke alarm are particularly suitable if someone in your house has hearing difficulties, they come fitted with an emergency light which comes on when the alarm is triggered. some of them may also help light up your escape route.

Alarms with ten-year batteries

While the initial purchase cost may be higher you will save on the cost of replacement batteries. Most brands have both ionisation/optical alarms available and as a general rule they are fitted with a long-life lithium battery, or a sealed power pack that lasts for ten years.

Please remember: Regardless of the expected life of your battery, the weekly test rule still applies

Models with a ‘hush’ or ‘silence’ button

Some models are available with a 'hush' button which will silence the alarm for a short time. This can be used when cooking, for example. If there is a real fire, giving off lots of smoke, the hush system is overridden and the alarm sounds. These models will continue to remind you they have been silenced by 'chirping' or by displaying a red light.

Mains-powered alarms

These are powered by your home’s electricity supply and need to be installed by qualified electricians. There’s no battery to check, although we always recommend that you buy one with a recharging battery back-up in case of a power cut or if your power is lost because of an electrical fire in your home.

Interconnecting or linked alarms

Some alarms can be connected to each other so that when one senses smoke, all the alarms in the property sound. They are useful for people with hearing difficulties and also for those living in larger homes. You should also remember that if you have fire doors or large solid wooden doors fitted then when these doors are closed the volume of the alarm sounding could be greatly reduced, this should be considered during your smoke alarm installaton. By linking two or more alarms you are ensuring that you are alerted to the presence of a fire at the earliest possible moment.


Remember: In a fire minutes or even seconds count.

Mains-powered alarm with strobe light and vibrating pad

Designed for people who are hard of hearing or deaf. If there’s a fire, the alarm alerts you with a flashing light and vibrating pad - which is normall placed beneath your pillow.
Remember when you do your weekly test, check the vibrating pad is working too.

Mains-powered alarm which plugs into a light socket

This type of alarm uses a rechargeable battery that charges up when the light is switched on. It lasts for ten years and can be silenced or tested by the light switch.

Maintaining your smoke alarm

To keep your smoke alarm in good working order and your family safe, you should:

  • test it once a week, by pressing the test button until the alarm sounds
  • change the battery once a year (unless it’s a ten-year alarm)
  • replace the whole unit every ten years