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A Guide to Smoke and Heat Alarms

With over 800 deaths throughout the UK caused by fires, smoke and heat alarms are an essential part of everyday life. It’s vital that alarm systems are installed in all buildings as they can offer those extra few minutes, enabling you to exit the building safely.

What are smoke alarms?

Smoke alarms are used to detect the presence of smoke and alarm people within the area.

What are heat alarms?

Heat alarms are similar to smoke alarms in that they also are used to detect a possible fire but instead of detecting smoke, they detect an increase in heat.

What kinds of alarms are available?

There are three main types of smoke alarms available:

Ionisation Alarms

These are generally the cheapest type of smoke alarm. They are very sensitive and as such are not recommended for placing in or very close to a kitchen. They are slightly less sensitive to slow burning and smouldering fires.

Where would I use an Ionisation Alarm?

Examples of areas where Ionisation alarms could be used are: Factories, Schools & Libraries.

Our Range of Ionisation Alarms:

• Aico Smoke Alarms

Optical Alarms

These smoke alarms are more responsive to slow-burning fires such as smouldering fires or overheated PVC wiring, and less sensitive to invisible smoke caused by cooking or burning toast.

Where would I use an Optical Alarm?

Examples of areas where Optical alarms should be used are: Bedrooms, Stairways, Corridors, Lift shafts and Warehouses.

Our Range of Optical Alarms:

• Aico Optical Smoke Alarms

Combined Alarms

These smoke alarms are good at detecting both slow-burning and flaming fires.

Where would I use a Combined Alarm?

Examples of areas where combined alarms could be used are: Dining areas, Stairways, Bedrooms and Corridors.

Where should I site the alarms?

Smoke and Heat Alarms are easily screwed into the ceiling. They should be placed as close to the centre of the room as possible and at least 30 cm (12 inches) away from any wall or light fitting. If the building has more than one level to it, alarms should be placed on every floor. If there is just the one level, the alarm should be placed in a hallway or somewhere central to the building where it can be heard from every room. The bigger the building, the more alarms will be required! TVs and other large electrical appliances can be a fire hazard and so alarms should be placed near any that may be present in the building.

Types of smoke and heat alarms available:

  • Alarms with emergency lights fitted – these are useful for people with hearing difficulties.
  • Alarms with a ‘silence button’ – these are good for when the alarm goes of falsely, for example when cooking.
  • Mains powered alarms – Powered by electricity. These need to be fitted by electricians.
  • Alarms with a ten-year battery – Slightly more expensive but avoid having to change the batteries every 12 months.

Maintaining the alarms

Smoke and heat alarms require little maintenance. You should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions but a few extra tips can be found below:

  • Test the alarm once a week to make sure it is still working – press the button on the alarm and wait for it to sound.
  • Change the battery once a year (unless you have purchased a ten-year alarm)
  • Vacuum the inside of the alarm using the soft brush attachment. This should clear away any dust from the sensors. If the alarm does not open up, vacuum through the holes. This should be done twice a year.
  • Buy a new alarm every ten years.
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