Smoke alarms

Fires can happen when you least expect them, often during the night, which is why it’s so important to have smoke alarms in your home. If you’re asleep when a fire starts, a smoke alarm will wake you and give you a chance to escape before you are overcome by smoke. Statistics show that during a fire more people die from smoke and gas inhalation than from burns.

Smoke alarms save lives!

What you need to know about smoke alarms

  • if there is a fire, a smoke alarm will immediately warn you, giving everyone time to escape
  • smoke alarms are cheap, available in most high street stores, supermarkets and DIY stores, and are easy to fit and maintain.
  • Kent Fire and Rescue Service provide free advice on smoke alarms – just call us (free from most home phones, mobiles may charge) on 0800 923 7000 or email us at

Types of smoke alarm

There are two main types of smoke alarm – ionisation alarms and optical alarms.

Whichever model or type of alarm you choose, please ensure you buy it from a reputable outlet, such as a supermarket or DIY shop.

Ionisation alarms

  • these are the cheapest and the most readily available
  • they are very sensitive to flaming fires (such as chip pan fires) and they will detect this type of fire before the smoke gets too thick.

Optical alarms

  • these are more expensive and more effective at detecting slow-burning fires (such as smouldering foam-filled furniture and overheated wiring)
  • they are less likely to go off accidentally, and so are best for ground-floor hallways and for homes on one level.

Other specialist alarms

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

  • always 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
  • position the alarms at least 30cm away from any wall or light fitting
  • always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the fitting and maintenance of your smoke alarms.

‘Beeping’ smoke alarms

If your smoke alarm is making a ‘beeping’ noise, this means the battery has expired.  Some alarms you are able to replace the battery and others are sealed units which require the whole alarm to be replaced.

Replacing the battery in your smoke alarm

Replacement is a very simple job. Grip the alarm and do a quarter turn to remove it from the base plate.

Remember: if you can’t safely change the smoke alarm yourself please ask a relative or friend to help. If this is not possible, or you have a different type of smoke alarm, please consult the manufacturer’s instructions, or phone us on 0800 923 7000 for advice.

Smoke alarms fitted by Kent Fire and Rescue Service

These smoke alarms have a 10-year battery life after which the alarm itself must be changed because the batteries cannot be replaced.

KFRS provide Aico alarms which have a large test button in the centre. This can also be pressed to silence an alarm that is chirping or has had a false activation. If your Aico alarm is having regular false activations or chirping please contact us on 0800 923 7000 to discuss with us further and we will be able to advise you want to do.

Hard-wired alarms

Unfortunately we cannot provide maintenance or service for hard-wired alarms. If the property is rented please contact your landlord for advice. If the property is owned by you then the problem may still be a low battery that you can replace yourself, alternatively you may need to contact a qualified electrician.

Carbon monoxide detectors

Ideally, you should put a carbon monoxide detector in or near every room with a heating or cooking appliance. They can be battery operated or mains powered by plugging directly into a mains socket. Find out more about the risks of carbon monoxide.