We all know the drill. Have smoke alarms fitted, and check them regularly. It’s the simplest way to keep you and your family safe. In truth, it’s not something we much like to think about, but should you be one of the many people who haven’t got around to fitting smoke alarms (or don’t check them) then you should read on. The chances of survival during a house fire are not good if you have no smoke alarm fitted; government statistics indicate you are at least seven times more likely to die if there are no working smoke alarms.
Unfortunately the statistics also highlight that where the fire services have attended house fires where an alarm was present, the alarm often failed to operate. More than half these failures are due to missing or flat batteries. Fires where a smoke alarm was not present accounted for 30% of all dwelling fires and 35 per cent of all dwelling fire fatalities. So, other than remembering to check the batteries every week, is there anything else we can do to keep safe?
Billy MacFarlane of Balfron based 360 Electrical Services, an electrician with over twenty years experience, suggests looking at fitting mains connected alarm systems rather than battery operated models;
“Many rural properties have thick walls and a single battery alarm at the site of a fire is unlikely to be heard throughout the entire house. Every second counts where there is a fire. Hard-wired alarms can be linked so that if one alarm goes off, they all do, alerting the entire household to a problem. Mains powered alarms also have battery back-up in case of a power failure. While initial cost to fit a mains-connected system is a little more, they are reliable, maintenance is minimal and the reassurance that you are protecting your home and family invaluable.”
Of course, any kind of smoke alarm is better than no smoke alarm (provided you keep checking the batteries, testing the unit is working and replace every ten years) and can save lives. The fire service offer advice on the many types of smoke alarms available, and these can be battery or mains connected.
New residential buildings, conversions, HMOs and some small businesses all require mains powered interlinked smoke alarms.
Billy also highlights that
“It’s mandatory for smoke detectors to be hard-wired in all rental properties,” so landlords must ensure that they are complying with the regulations, and those renting accommodation are entitled to check that this is the case.’
What type of smoke alarms are available?
There are mainly four types of smoke alarm currently on the market – ionisation, optical (also described as photo electronic), heat and combined.
IONISATION are the cheapest and cost very little to purchase. They are very sensitive to small particles of smoke produced by fast flaming fires, such as paper and wood, and will detect this type of fire before the smoke gets too thick. They are marginally less sensitive to slow burning and smouldering fires which give off larger quantities of smoke before flaming occurs. They can also be too over-sensitive near kitchens.
OPTICAL are more expensive but more effective at detecting larger particles of smoke produced by slow-burning fires, such as smouldering foam-filled upholstery and overheated PVC wiring. They are marginally less sensitive to fast flaming fires. Optical alarms can be installed near (not in) kitchens, as they are less likely than ionisation alarms to go off when toast is burned.
HEAT ALARMS detect the increase in temperature from a fire and are insensitive to smoke. They can therefore be installed in kitchens. They only cover a relatively small area of a room, so potentially several heat alarms need to be installed in a large kitchen.
Combined Optical Smoke and Heat Alarms are combinations of optical and heat alarms in one unit to reduce false alarms while increasing the speed of detection.
Combined Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms combine both smoke detection and CO alarm protection in one ceiling mounted unit.
Electricity is a major cause of accidental fires in UK homes, over 20,000 each year, with 89% of electrical fires being caused by electrical products. Billy suggests using some common sense, and ensuring your home is properly checked:
“It’s amazing how many folk ignore the smell of burning. If something is overheating, get it checked out by a qualified electrician. Check flexes and cables for signs of wear, don’t overload adaptors and turn electrical equipment off where you can. These are very simple measures to keep your home electrically safe. At 360 Electrical Services we recommend all homeowners check the condition of their wiring. This should be done when you move into a new home and then once every 10 years. If you rent property, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to do this, and you can ask for certification to ensure checks have been carried out.”
360 Electrical Services is now listed in Linked Directory and is offering customers a ‘safety special’ in 2017. 360 will do a FREE visual safety inspection of your home electrical system when installing any mains wired smoke detection alarms.