Last updated:
8 November 2017

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Smoke alarms

How to choose the right smoke alarm for your home and where to install it.

You are four times more likely to die in a fire in the home if there is no working smoke alarm.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service offer a free Home Safety visit to advise how to make your home safer and, where appropriate, fit smoke alarms. There is also a DIY checklist that you can complete if you are not eligible for a free check.

Choosing a smoke alarm

A lot of people forget to check their smoke alarms, so the best choice is usually the one that lasts the longest.

  • Standard-battery alarms - These are the cheapest and most basic smoke alarms available.
  • Battery alarms with an emergency light - Fitted with a light which comes on when the alarm is triggered, these are particularly suitable if someone in your house has hearing difficulties.
  • Alarms with 10-year batteries - Although slightly more expensive, you do save on the cost of replacing batteries.
  • Models with a ‘hush’ or ‘silence’ button - Some models are available with a button which will silence the alarm for a short time. This can be useful when cooking. If there is a real fire giving off lots of smoke the hush system is overridden and the alarm sounds. These models will continue to remind you they have been silenced by 'chirping' or by displaying a red light.
  • Mains-powered alarms - These are powered by your home’s electricity supply and need to be installed by a qualified electrician. There’s no battery to check, although they are available with battery back-up in case of a power cut.
  • Interconnecting or linked alarms - Some alarms can be connected to each other so that when one senses smoke all the alarms in the property sound. They are useful for people with hearing difficulties and in larger homes.
  • Mains-powered alarm with strobe light and vibrating pad - Designed for people who are deaf or have hearing difficulties, the alarm alerts you with a flashing light and vibrating pad placed beneath your pillow in the event of a fire.
  • Mains-powered alarm which plugs into a light socket - This type of alarm uses a rechargeable battery that charges up when the light is switched on. It lasts 10 years and can be silenced or tested by the light switch.

Where to install smoke alarms

The more smoke alarms you have, the safer you will be. The best place to fit an alarm is on the ceiling, near or in the middle of the room or hall. The alarm should be at least 30cm (one foot) away from a wall or light.

  • As a minimum, install one on each floor - preferably on the hall and landing ceilings.
  • If you have only one smoke alarm and two floors, put it where you can hear it when you're asleep - in the ceiling at the top of the stairs leading to the bedrooms.
  • If you have a TV or other large electrical appliance in your bedroom, fit a smoke alarm there.

Looking after your smoke alarms

  • Once a week test each alarm by pressing the test button until the alarm sounds.
  • Once a year change the battery (unless it's a 10-year alarm).
  • Twice a year open the case and gently vacuum the inside using the soft-brush attachment to remove dust from the sensors. If it doesn't open, vacuum through the holes.
  • After 10 years it's best to get a whole new alarm.
  • If your smoke alarm keeps going off don't take out the battery! Most probably it's positioned too near the kitchen, so move it further down the hall. If it's not the cooking setting it off, try vacuuming the alarm as there may be a build-up of dust or dirt inside.

If you are a tenant or landlord

Landlords have particular responsibilities for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. You can find out more on Alarms in private landlords' properties.

Get more advice and guidance


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