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Smoke alarms

Smoke alarms save lives

House fires are the main cause of fire deaths and injury and you are more than twice as likely to die in a fire at home if you haven’t got a working smoke alarm.

Smoke alarms are cheap, available in most high street and DIY stores, and are easy to fit and maintain. Find out more about buying and installing smoke alarms. They will alert you if there’s a fire, giving you and your family the time you need to escape safely.

Every home should have working smoke alarms on every floor.

Where to put your smoke alarm

Make sure your smoke alarms meets British Standard (BS) 5446 Part 1 and has the British Standard Kitemark or PCB 'Horseshoe' mark.  

You should have at least one smoke alarm on each floor of your property. If you have only one alarm make sure it is somewhere you’ll be able to hear it when you’re asleep. If you have a large electrical appliance, like a computer, in any of your bedrooms, you should fit a smoke alarm there too. 

It usually takes a few minutes to install your smoke alarm yourself – just follow the manufacturer’s instructions that come with it. Fit your smoke alarm on the ceiling, near or at the middle of the room or hall. It should be at least 30cm (one foot) away from a wall or light. Use the screws supplied to ensure it is firmly fixed to the ceiling.

If it is difficult for you to fit your smoke alarm yourself, ask a family member or friend to help you. 

Regular checks - Test all your smoke alarms once a week by pressing the test button until the alarm sounds

Replace battery - Change the battery once a year (unless it is a 10-year alarm)

Replace alarm - Replace the whole unit at least every 10 years

Stay protected - Never remove the batteries apart from when replacing them.

Beeping sound - if it starts beeping and won't stop, contact the manufacturer.

Types of smoke alarm

There are two main types of smoke alarm - ionisation alarms and optical alarms.

Ionisation alarms are the cheapest and the most readily available. They are very sensitive to flaming fires, (ones that burn fiercely such as chip-pan fires) and they will detect this type of fire before the smoke gets too thick.

Optical alarms are more expensive and more effective at detecting slow-burning fires (such as smouldering foam-filled furniture and 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.

As both slow-burning and flaming fires are common, for the best protection you should install one of each. However, if you can't have both it's still safer to have one smoke alarm than none at all.

Alarms for the hearing impaired

If you have, or someone you know has, difficulty hearing, there are special smoke alarms to warn you if there's a fire and to give you time to get out safely. They use flashing lights as well as an audible alarm and include a vibrating pad to alert you if you are in bed asleep. 

If you require one of these alarms or would like to request a Home Fire Safety visit and live in Bedfordshire call us on 01234 845000 or contact homefiresafetyvisit@bedsfire.gov.uk

Smoke alarm testing

How do you know that your smoke alarms are working correctly?

It is good practice to test your smoke alarm once a week. Try to coincide this with a regular weekly event, such as taking your bins out, to help you to remember. To test, press the test button on the alarm (usually a circular button in the middle). The alarm should sound, then stop. If the alarm does not sound, or is beeping, follow the information on our bleeping smoke alarm pages below.

Also, it is a good idea to clean your alarm regularly to ensure that dust does not build up, which can affect the sensor. Use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to clean the outside of the alarm. We recommend repeating this once every three months.

Smoke alarm won't stop bleeping?

Try the following:

  • If you bought your own smoke alarm then you should fit a new battery if this is possible, or replace the alarm if you cannot access the battery.
  • If your home is privately rented, provided through housing association or a council property, it may have a smoke alarm hard-wired into the building. If this begins bleeping the tenant should contact their landlord and ask them to fix, maintain or replace the alarm.
  • Private landlords with rented properties are legally obliged to have a working smoke alarm fitted on every floor of the building and you should contact them and ask them to replace any faulty ones. If they refuse to fit them or replace batteries contact our Fire Safety enforcement team on 01234 845000.
  • *If Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has provided you with a free smoke alarm in the past and the low battery alarm is chirping you should call the manufacturer - FireAngel or BlueWatch - on 0800 141 2561 between 8.30am and 5.30pm Monday to Friday and ask them to assist you.
  • If you do not have a working smoke alarm then please buy one, they cost as little as £5 from supermarkets, DIY stores and from reputable online stores. Smoke alarms are proven to give people significant early warning to escape their homes and alert the Fire Service. 
  • Test your smoke alarms regularly by pressing the button in the centre once a week.

Beds Fire


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