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Fire safety – why smoke alarms shouldn’t be neglected

Fire safety – why smoke alarms shouldn’t be neglected

Smoke detectors aren’t an optional accessory for domestic properties – they could mean the difference between life and death, and installation should be prioritised at the earliest convenience.

Between April 2019 and March 2020, government research showed 590 casualties and 243 fatalities in the UK as a result of fires. Early warning systems can alert occupants to danger, allowing them to safely evacuate the building, and potentially save many lives.

Here, we discuss what smoke alarms are, how they can be tested, and how often they should be tested.

What is a smoke alarm?

A smoke alarm is a piece of fire-protection equipment that automatically detects smoke and alerts people of its’ presence.

There are four main types of smoke alarm. Ionisation alarms are sensitive to small particles of smoke from fast flaming fires, while optical alarms are more suitable for detecting slow-burning, smouldering fires. Heat alarms detect an increase in temperature from a fire and are insensitive to smoke (meaning they’re often ideal for kitchens). However, combined alarms are also an option to reduce false alarms and provide early detection.

Why is a smoke alarm important?

Given that smoke rises, a working smoke alarm offers an early warning to occupants of the property. It is an invaluable piece of fire safety equipment, providing crucial minutes to safely evacuate the property in the event of a fire.

Under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, rented properties are required to install and maintain one smoke alarm on each storey of the house. This is vital knowledge for landlords, as they are considered the ‘responsible person’ by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) and are held accountable for the fire safety of their premises.

To learn more about the requirements of the RRFSO, read our guide to who is responsible for fire safety.

How to test a smoke alarm

Smoke alarms can be easily tested by pressing and holding the main button on the cover for a minimum of five seconds. The alarm should let out a loud siren if it’s working. If the siren is quiet or non-existent, the batteries may need changing. If the alarm still does not work, the smoke alarm will need to be replaced.

How often should smoke alarms be tested?

It’s advised that smoke alarms in every home or property are tested once a week to ensure they are in working order. The #TestItTuesday campaign is a great way of helping your customers get into this habit, encouraging them to test their smoke alarms every Tuesday.

According to the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms (England) Regulations 2015, landlords of privately rented homes should test smoke alarms on the first day of a new tenancy, as stipulated in the tenancy agreement. In addition to this, it’s advised that landlords change the batteries in all smoke alarms in the property every year and replace the entire unit every 10 years (providing it is in working order throughout that period.)

It’s vital that landlords ensure that the smoke alarms installed in their properties are in working order, not only to protect their property, but also the lives of their tenants. To learn more, read our guide to fire safety for landlords.

The content of the CheckFire blog is for general information purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, under no circumstances should it be considered professional advice. Any reliance you place on the information is at your own risk. Always seek the advice of a fire professional for your particular circumstances and requirements.
  • by Ayshalee Morton

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