Faulty electrics from appliances, wiring or overloaded sockets cause around 6000 fires in the home across the country every year. While these could be prevented, the damage caused by such fires would be significantly reduced with proper fire safety prevention in the home. Simply fitting a smoke alarm isn’t enough - according to government statistics, you are four times more likely to die in a fire if you don’t have a smoke alarm that works. So it’s important to carry out regular checks and, most importantly, ensure the fire alarm is installed correctly in the first place.
In England, the minimum guide for smoke alarm positioning to meet building regulations is to have at least one alarm on every storey – common examples are the landing and hallway. When advising customers on the most effective type of smoke alarm to install, it’s important to know the different types that are available.
Ionisation alarms are the cheapest on the market, and are very sensitive to small particles of smoke produced by fast flaming fires and will detect this type of fire before the smoke gets too thick. A downside is that they can be too over-sensitive near kitchens, so are best suited to hallways or landing areas. We’ve all been there when we’ve gone a bit overboard with the cooking and the smoke alarm’s going off, so what do we do? We unplug it! A safer alternative is to install a heat alarm in any kitchen areas where the kitchen is not separated from the circulation space.
Optical alarms are more expensive but effective at detecting larger particles of smoke produced by slow-burning fires – such as foam filled upholstery and overheated wiring. They are more suited for installation near (not in) kitchens as they’re less likely than ionisation alarms to go off when someone burns the toast.
Heat alarms detect the increase in temperature from a fire but have no smoke-detecting capabilities, which makes them the perfect choice for kitchens. However, they only cover a small area of a room so a larger kitchen may need several to be effective.
For the ultimate in safety, look for combined optical smoke and heat alarms, or combined smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Each type looks similar and is powered either by a battery or mains electricity. To comply with building regulations, all optical or multi-sensor mains powered alarms that are positioned within the escape routes of a property should have an integral backup power supply.
Once fitted, smoke alarms require very little maintenance but a few minutes of time will ensure they works at optimum safety. When advising customers on maintenance, we recommend testing the smoke alarm when the clocks are changed and vacuuming it gently with a dust attachment to clean the sensors. With regular checks, a heat or smoke detector will provide years of peace of mind and could be a lifesaver.
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