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Smoke alarmDetecting fire

Fires happen when you least expect them, often during the night.

They also spread very quickly, damaging property, injuring and killing people.

But the real killer is smoke. If you’re asleep when a fire starts and you don’t have a smoke alarm to wake you, you are unlikely to survive. Smoke can suffocate you in just three breaths – you could be dead before the flames reach you.

About smoke alarms

  • If there is a fire, a smoke alarm will immediately warn you, giving you and everyone in your home time to escape to safety. Smoke alarms are cheap, available in most high-street stores, supermarkets and DIY stores, and are easy to fit and maintain.
  • There are a variety of models to choose from, depending on your needs and budget.
  • Kent Fire and Rescue Service will be happy to give you free advice on the best approach for your home – just call us (free from landlines) on 0800 923 7000 or email us at
  • Whichever model you choose, make sure it meets British Standard (BS) 5446 Part 1 and preferably also carries the British Standard Kitemark or PCB ‘Horseshoe’ mark.
  • There are two main types of smoke alarm – ionisation alarms and optical alarms.
  • Ionisation alarms are the cheapest and the most readily available. They are very sensitive to flaming fires, (ones that burn fiercely such as chip-pan fires) and they will detect this type of fire before the smoke gets too thick.
  • Optical alarms are more expensive and more effective at detecting slow-burning fires (such as smouldering foam-filled furniture and overheated wiring). Optical alarms are less likely to go off accidentally, and so are best for ground-floor hallways and for homes on one level.
  • There are many other specialist alarms, such as mains-powered alarm with strobed lights and vibrating pads for people who are deaf or have hearing difficulties.

Fitting your own smoke alarms

Aways fit your smoke alarms where you will be able to hear them throughout the home – at least one alarm on each level of your home is recommended. Alarms should not be fitted in or near the kitchen or any bathrooms, as steam or cooking fumes may cause false alarms.

Fit smoke alarms on the ceiling, as near as possible to the centre of the room – the alarms should be positioned at least 30cm away from any wall of light fitting. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the fitting and maintenance of your smoke alarms.

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