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Tips: What is a smoke alarm, what's the purpose and how to choose a smoke alarm?

Tips: What is a smoke alarm, what's the purpose and how to choose a smoke alarm?

  2010-05-26         admin         Safety » Fire Safety
The following are taken from Aico's tips and guidelines as presented in "A basic guide to fitting a smoke alarm in a domestic dwelling".

First of all, a smoke alarm can give you those precious few minutes of warning which could help you and your family to get out safely. Many deaths and injuries could be prevented if people had early warning and were able to get out in time.

Buying and fitting a smoke alarm could help save your own and your family's life. The below information describes what smoke alarms are, then goes on to explain the purpose of installing one and how should you choose a smoke alarm.

What is a smoke alarm?

Smoke alarms, or smoke detectors as they are sometimes known, are small devices, about the size of a hand. They are fitted to the ceiling and are able to detect fires in their earliest stages and sound a loud warning alarm.

This alarm can give you those precious few minutes of warning time which will help get you and your family out safely. Smoke alarms are cheap and can be easy to install.

If you are installing a simple battery smoke alarm follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to fit and position the alarm. If you have difficulties, or want more information, you should get in touch with your local fire and rescue service.

The local fire and rescue service may be able to make arrangements to have the alarm fitted for you if you are unable to do it for yourself. The instructions will also give you guidance on battery replacement and maintenance. If however you would like to understand the subject more fully then read on.

The purpose for installing a fire alarm

The first consideration is to establish what the purpose for installing a fire alarm is. The most obvious is to warn you that there is a fire in the premises but more importantly to warn you when you are at the most vulnerable e.g. when you are sleeping or in another room. It also needs to warn you that your primary escape route and circulation areas are being threatened from fire.

The primary escape route is the quickest route from any room to the final exit door that leads outside the premises and to ultimate safety. In dwellings on the upper floors, it would be from the room, onto the landing, down the stairs, into the hall and out of the front door.

If you are on the ground floor then the escape route would be from the room, into the hall and out of the front door. To protect this means of escape route then all doors should be kept closed especially at night to prevent smoke from a fire, smoke logging it.

If there is a fire in a room and left to its own devices it will eventually burn through the door and make the escape route impassable. Before this happens a small amount of smoke will percolate between the frame and the door, because no door is a perfect fit and there is always a small gap.

If you install a fire detector in the escape route, then this small amount of smoke will actuate the sensor and set off the alarm giving you and your family time to escape before the escape route is impassable.

Any rooms or cupboards that you consider are a high fire risk and open onto the means of escape route, you may consider installing a fire detector in that room or cupboard to give a quicker warning and improve you escape from the premises. If you deem this necessary then those detectors should be linked together.

How should you choose a smoke alarm?

There are many types of alarm on the market and they cost from around £5.00 upwards and can be operated by battery (Dry Cell) or mains powered, with or without a backup battery. Where you require more than one detector they should be linked together using hard wiring or wireless network (like the Aico RadioLINK wireless interconnection).

You can buy these Domestic Fire/Smoke alarms at the Fire Alarms section on our website - these alarm conform to the British Standard (meaning that the alarm has achieved a standard acceptable to the British Standards Institution, BSI). To ensure the fire alarm meets the minimum standard you should always select one that carry the well known kite mark.

There are a number of fire alarms that use various methods of detection and it is important to select the most appropriate - see the Ionisation Alarms, the Optical Alarms, the Multi-sensor alarms, and the Heat Alarms.

The Code of practice for the design, installation and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in dwellings is BS 5839-6:2004 and a copy should be available at your local reference library.

Of course, if you are unable to obtain a copy, your local Fire and Rescue Service will be happy to give you advice on which one is best suited for you. You can also consult one of our specialists in our showroom in Archway, North London - visit us to find out more!