Smoke alarms

Smoke alarm

Only a working smoke alarm will save your life. Make sure you test your smoke alarms.

  • Make sure that at least one working smoke alarm is fitted on each level of your home.
  • Never remove the batteries from your smoke alarm and replace the batteries regularly.
  • Plan an escape route. Make sure everyone in your home knows what to do when they hear your smoke alarm.

To arrange a free home fire safety visit call 0300 303 0088 or email:

Buying a smoke alarm could help save the lives of your family, your home and others

Every year the Fire and Rescue Service is called to over 600,000 fires which result in over 800 deaths and over 17,000 injuries. About 50,000 (140 a day) of these are in the home and kill nearly 500 and injure over 11,000, many which could have been prevented if people had an early warning and were able to get out in time. In fact you are twice as likely to die in a house fire that has no smoke alarm than a house that does.

What are smoke alarms?

Smoke alarms are self-contained devices that incorporate a means of detecting a fire (smoke detector) and giving a warning (alarm). They are about the size of a hand and are normally fitted to the ceiling. They can detect fires in their early stages and give you those precious minutes to enable you and your family to leave your house in safety.

In a standard smoke alarm, the battery will need to be replaced every 12 months. You can buy alarms fitted with sealed 10 year batteries. The advantage is that you don’t have to replace the battery every year.

Mains-powered alarms eliminate the problem of checking the battery. But to be really safe you need a battery back-up (which costs extra). They need to be installed by a qualified electrician.

Always buy a smoke alarm which conforms to the British Standard. This means the alarm has achieved a standard acceptable to the British Standards Institution (BSI). Smoke alarms should carry the well-known Kite mark. For further information about the Kite Mark visit:

How many should I fit in my home

The number of smoke alarms to fit in your home depends on your particular circumstances. Fires can start anywhere, so the more that are fitted, the higher the level of protection.

Do not fit an alarm in the bathroom, as steam may trigger the alarm. In kitchens and garages where steam or exhaust fumes can occur, install a heat alarm. Cigarette smoke will not normally set off an alarm.

Where do I fit my smoke alarms?

Smoke alarms are simply screwed into the ceilings and should be fitted as close to the centre of the room as possible, but at least 30 centimetres (12 inches) away from any wall or light fitting. You should always make sure that your alarm is fitted in a place where it can be heard throughout your home – particularly when you are asleep.

Looking after your smoke alarm

Follow the manufacturers’ instructions – smoke alarms need very little maintenance. A few minutes of your time during the year will ensure that your alarm is working and could help save your life and the lives of your family. You should:

  • Once a week test each alarm by pressing the test button till the alarm sounds
  • Once a year change the battery (unless it’s a ten-year alarm)
  • Twice a year gently vacuum the smoke alarm using the soft-brush attachment to remove dust from the sensors
  • After 10 years it’s best to get a whole new alarm

Landlord responsibilities

New legislation came into force on 1 October 2015 for private landlords in England regarding smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms. Landlords must now fit a smoke alarm on every storey and fit a Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm in every room with a solid fuel burning appliance, although the regulations do not stipulate the type of alarm to be installed. Whilst the legislation refers to solid fuel burning appliances in relation to Carbon Monoxide alarms, we encourage landlords to ensure that working carbon monoxide alarms are also installed in rooms with gas appliances.

Alarms must be tested and working on the start of each tenancy.

More information for Landlords on private sector housing standards

Harlow Council tenants

Harlow Council tenants are responsible for the maintenance of battery operated smoke alarms, which includes the replacement of batteries. Tenants seeking details on smoke alarms and fire safety should visit the Essex Fire and Rescue Service website for more information.

As part of the annual gas servicing visit, Harlow Council tenants will now have a smoke detector service. This will involve a clean and check of your smoke detectors to ensure they are fully operational as part of your ongoing safety against the threat of fire. The Council recognises that it has a number of properties without gas heating and these properties will be on a separate programme.

When undertaking electrical works within a Council property and in the absence of a battery operated smoke alarm, a hardwired smoke alarm will be fitted.

All Harlow Council Supported Housing Schemes have been fitted with smoke detectors that are linked to the alarm system.

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