Home Safety is essential
A smoke alarm is a warning device that detects smoke at the earliest stages of a fire. This gives you vital extra time to escape which is specially important if you have trouble moving around.
Smoke alarms cost from as little as £5 and you can get them from supermarkets and high-street stores.
Fit at least one on each floor of your home, ideally on the hallway or landing ceilings.
Don’t put a smoke alarm in the kitchen where it can be set off accidentally. (You can buy smoke alarms fitted with a ‘hush button’ so you can silence the alarm if it goes off by mistake.)
Once a week test the battery. You can get certain smoke alarms which have a test switch at a low level if you can’t reach the detector easily.
Press the test button until the alarm sounds.
Once a year change the battery (unless it’s a 10-year alarm).
Twice a year, open the case and gently vacuum the inside to remove dust from the sensors. If it doesn’t open, vacuum through the holes.
After 10 years it’s best to replace your alarm with a whole new unit.
A lot of people forget to check the batteries in their smoke alarms, so the best choice of power supply is one that lasts longest.
Standard battery alarms are the most basic alarms and the cheapest available. But batteries will need to be tested every week and replaced once a year.
Alarms with 10-year batteries are slightly more expensive but you will save on the cost of replacement batteries.
It’s vital to maintain your smoke alarms.
Mains-powered alarms are powered by the household’s mains supply and solve the problem of checking the battery. They need to be installed by a qualified electrician. Prices start at about £15, but you need to add the cost of fitting them. It’s worthwhile thinking about this option if you are having other electrical work done in your home.
Do you have hearing problems?
Strobe light and vibrating-pad alarms
If you are deaf, a little hard of hearing or simply a heavy sleeper, you should consider this type of smoke alarm system. These smoke alarms can be fitted with a vibrating pad and flashing strobe light. You should put the pad under your mattress or pillow to wake you up at night if there is a fire. When smoke is detected, the alarm will sound and set off the light and pad. This will wake you up instantly. Battery-operated systems cost from £100.
The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) produce a factsheet on smoke-alarm systems for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Contact the RNID Information line on 0808 808 0123 or visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/
If you are concerned that you will not hear your smoke alarm because you live in a large house or one with more than one floor, you may want to consider asking a qualified electrician to install linked alarms.
Interconnected alarms can be installed so that when one detects a fire, they will all sound. This will make sure that you are woken up before the fire has spread closer to you.
Help with installation
If it is difficult for you to fit your alarm, contact your local Fire and Rescue Service (fire station). You will find this phone number in the phone book – don’t call 999. They will be happy to advise you or help you fit it, and to answer any other questions you may have on fire safety in the home.
If you have trouble moving around, you need a way of calling for help quickly. Consider fitting a buzzer, an intercom system or a phone which is fitted with an automatic dial-out system which calls for help if your smoke alarm goes off.