Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors

Fires happen when you least expect them, sometimes during the night. They spread very quickly, damaging property and injuring or killing people.

Smoke kills. Smoke alarms can save your life, but only if you have them and test them regularly. You need a minimum of one on each level of your home, but we recommend more.

Smoke alarms are cheap and easy to install. They are available from most DIY stores and supermarkets. If you're installing new alarms, we recommend that you choose the 10-year sealed battery type.

If you live in rented accommodation it is up to your landlord to ensure that you have the correct alarms installed, however it is still important that you test the alarms weekly.

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What type of smoke alarm do I need?

Ionisation and optical smoke alarms are recommended to be installed in most areas such as living rooms, hallways, landing areas and dining rooms. In rooms such as kitchens, garages and immediately outside of a bathroom should have heat alarms installed. Heat alarms register a change in temperature and not the visual presence of smoke. This means that they will not be accidentally triggered by steam or dust.

Make sure any alarms you purchase are marked with a British Standards or European (CE) safety mark which shows that they are approved, tested and safe. Choose smoke alarms with a 10-year or long-lasting sealed battery. If your smoke alarm battery is running low ensure it is changed quickly. If your alarm is between 5 to 10 years old consider replacing the entire unit.

Smoke alarm maintenance

  • Test your smoke alarm once a week. If you struggle to reach it use a walking stick or broom handle.
  • The battery should be changed once a year but only if you had to put one in the alarm on installation. Choose a memorable date like a birthday or anniversary. If the smoke alarm has a 10-year sealed battery, this should not be changed
  • Never take a battery out just because the alarm is sounding or you need it for another appliance
  • Mains-powered alarms must be installed by a qualified electrician and tested regularly
  • If you live in a large house, install linked alarms so if one detects a fire they all sound. If they start to emit a high-pitched beep, the battery needs to be changed.

Fitting your smoke alarms

  • Fit smoke alarms on the ceiling as near as possible to the centre of the room
  • Fit smoke alarms at least 30cm away from any wall or light fitting
  • Do not fit one in the kitchen, fit a heat detector instead
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions on the fitting maintenance.

Carbon monoxide detectors

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless and poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels. Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in every room with a gas or solid fuel heating or cooking appliance. The most common sources are faulty boilers, gas fires and cookers. Carbon monoxide alarms should be tested weekly with your smoke alarms.

What to do if your carbon monoxide alarm sounds

  • Open all doors and windows
  • Stop using all fuel burning appliances and turn them off
  • Evacuate the property and leave all doors and windows open
  • In an emergency contact your gas or fuel supplier on their emergency number
  • Do not re-enter the property until the alarm has stopped
  • Seek medical help if you are experiencing any effects of carbon monoxide poisoning immediately. These include:
    • A tension-type headache
    • Dizziness
    • Feeling and being sick
    • Tiredness and confusion
    • Stomach pain
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Support with installing alarms

If you need support with your smoke alarms, or ensuring that they are working correctly, please book a free Safe and Well visit. They are completely free and available 24/7.

Either a crew or prevention officer will visit your home at the arranged time, day or night to share their home fire safety expertise. They will carry ID and will be more than happy to show it if you would like. The visit is friendly and informal, and there's no need to tidy up or provide refreshments. They are there to keep you safe, not for the tea! After a chat about fire prevention, they will ask you to show us around your home so we can provide personalised advice, and fit smoke and carbon monoxide detection equipment, and provide specialist equipment if required. This is all free of charge.

You can book your free Safe and Well visit today by:

  • Calling us free on 0800 085 0767
  • Text/SMS: 07971 691898

Visit our Safe and Well webpage for further information.

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