Smoke alarm Leeds: Has there ever been a household appliance so utterly ignored and yet – potentially – so hugely important?
It just sits there doesn’t it, on the ceiling at the top of the stairs (or wherever) gathering dust and cobwebs. The only time you notice it is either when you burn the toast, or when the battery starts to run out and it lets you know as much.
In a sense this is a good thing: From the manufacturers on down, everyone would rather a smoke alarm was more-or-less forgotten about than actually fulfilling its purpose. You might name your new model to sound a bit like some cool ‘70s American muscle car, such as with the Fireangel ST622, but it’s doubtful it will ever evoke in quite the same way.
Yet this small (usually) white plastic box operates with a whole different level of existential profundity. That’s a really pretentious way of saying that it could well save your life.
The stories are always poignant because we all know it could happen to us, and the statistics are stark: Every year, firefighters are called to over 600,000 fires, resulting in over 800 deaths and 17,000 injuries.
Around 50,000 of those fires are in the home, which works out at 140 a day. It translates to nearly 500 deaths and 11,000 injuries.
You may have seen one of those fire brigade videos and understand just how quickly house fires can take hold – that they can double in size roughly every minute.
And the starkest statistic of all is that you are twice as likely to die in a house fire when the house has no smoke alarm fitted, compared to a house that does.
Here’s a quick overview – there are four types of smoke alarm:
- This is the cheapest, and very sensitive to small smoke particles produced by fast-flaming fires, like those caused by paper and wood. It’s less sensitive to slow-burning fires that give off lots of smoke before flames appear e.g. upholstery and wiring, and also tends to make a big deal out of burning spaghetti.
- This is more expensive, but better at detecting larger smoke particles from slow-burning fires. It’s less sensitive to fast-flaming fires, though, and so doesn’t get so hysterical near kitchens.
- Heat alarm. This is insensitive to smoke, but instead detects a sudden temperature increase. It can be installed in kitchens, but only covers a relatively small area.
- Combined optical smoke and heat alarm. The aim with this is to reduce false alarms while increasing the speed of detection.
Each type is powered either by a battery, or mains electricity, or both (with the battery serving as back up should mains power be lost).
- Hush button. This can be used when there’s a false alarm, which is invariably caused by cooking but also by steam if, say, the alarm is in proximity to the bathroom. It will either ‘chirp’ or display a red light.
If an actual fire broke out after an alarm had been hushed, it would override this mode.
- Low battery beep. This is the other chief reason the alarm makes its presence felt (fingers crossed) and self-explanatory. There might also be a ‘sleep-easy’ function, which would allow you to silence the alarm if the low-battery beep started in the middle of the night.
- Escape light. This helps with visibility and alerts people with, say, hearing difficulties.
- Strobe/vibrating pad (which is placed under a pillow). These are also alerts for people who are hard of hearing.
The following are recommended:
Kitchen and Garage: Heat alarm
Landings: Ionisation alarm or combined optical smoke and heat alarm
Bedrooms, living rooms and hallway: Optical smoke alarm or combined optical smoke and heat alarm.
Always buy an alarm certified to the British or European Standard.
How many should I fit in my home?
In general, the more fitted the higher the protection. Ideally, then, that would mean one in every room (except the bathroom) with the alarms interlinked, meaning that all of them would sound.
In bungalows, one smoke alarm (preferably optical) may be sufficient, while if your home has more than one floor, it would be better to fit one alarm on each level.
However, if you have only one alarm, put it where you can hear it when you are asleep e.g. on the landing.
Where should I fit a smoke alarm?
Usually on the ceiling, and as close to the centre of the room as possible – but at least 30 cm (12 inches) away from a wall or light fitting.
Make sure it’s a place where the alarm can be heard throughout your home – particularly when you are asleep.
Looking after your smoke alarm
As already alluded to, alarms are not exactly high maintenance. Just a few minutes of attention each year will ensure that it works.
- Test your alarm (by pressing the button) twice a year e.g. when the clocks go forward/back.
- Vacuum gently using a brush attachment to remove dust from the sensors.
- Change the battery once a year (unless the alarm has a 10-year sealed battery).
- Replace every 10 years.
And more generally…
…talk with your family about what to do should a fire break out e.g. what route(s) to take to safety.
There you have it: So far as the household is concerned, smoke alarms are the unsung heroes – like the person you read about in the newspaper who performs a feat of daring do and then says ‘anyone would have done it’.
Inconspicuous yet vital; as we’ve seen they require little maintenance and yet could prove a life-saver. Just a few minutes of devotion a year is all that’s needed.
For more information please contact us today