This March CFOA is encouraging people to take a look at the detectors in their homes and those of their loved ones and make sure they have the right alarms, in the right place and suitable for the individual households needs.
In about 19% of accidental dwelling fires the smoke alarms do not operate. This can be for a range of reasons but in many cases the smoke did not reach the alarm to activate it.
At a minimum you should install a smoke alarm on each level of the house on the ceiling or high on a wall. The most common place would be in hallways and landings which would also be your primary escape route in the event of a fire. It is worth looking out for an alarm with a light installed as this will illuminate your escape route cost little more than a standard alarm.
To reduce the risk of false alarms don’t install smoke detectors too close to kitchens or bathrooms. If you find your alarm goes off when you cook then consider moving it further from the kitchen and look out for the ‘toast proof’ or optical alarm which minimise the risk of false alarms when cooking.
In addition you should also consider additional alarms for high risk rooms such as those with lots of electronic equipment or used for smoking. This will ensure that smoke reaches an alarm to alert you.
Close the internal doors of your house and make sure you can hear your alarms loudly and clearly from every part of the house – remember an alarm may have to wake you and your family from deep sleep.
Many modern alarms can be connected to each other either by hard wiring or Wi-Fi. The benefit of this is if an alarm goes off in one area it will activate all alarms. This is particularly useful if you have a larger house and may not hear one alarm going off or if you need extra time to leave the house due to mobility problems.
Heat alarms are activated when the temperature of a room reaches a certain level. It is well worth investing in these for the kitchen, utility room, workshop or garage. They are designed not to be set off by cooking fumes, humidity or dust. A heat alarm is no more expensive than a standard smoke alarm.
They should be used in conjunction with smoke alarms these will ensure you have the earliest possible warning of a fire and valuable time to escape.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odourless and colourless gas and known as the ‘silent killer’. It causes symptoms such as dizziness, sickness and headaches which can be mistaken for other illnesses. Find out more about carbon monoxide at the CO Awareness website.
You should install an audible carbon monoxide detector if you have a gas burning appliance (gas cooker/oven or boiler), or any appliance that burns solid fuel or oil (wood burning stoves, coal fires, oil fired boilers). The detector should be fitted in every room that has one of these appliances in.
If you are living in private rented accommodation it is the law that working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are installed. More information the legislation and what it means for landlords can be found in a previous article on the CFOA blog.
It is responsibility of the tenants to ensure these alarms are regularly checked and in working order. So even if you rent your property, press to test every week.
There are many products on the market which may be more suitable for people with additional or special needs. For example, children and people with high frequency hearing loss (this can happen with age) are more likely to hear a low frequency alarm which has a lower tone. In some cases they may not hear the high pitched sound of the alarms at all or hear it as a faint beeping. Check that everyone in the house can hear your smoke alarms.
For additional advice the Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) has a website which has guidance on the range of products available, from alarms with vibrating pads and strobe lights to pager systems.
Make sure you test any alarms installed once a week.