Kent Fire & Rescue Service
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Smoke alarms

Example picture of a home smoke alarm
Get a smoke alarm - it could save your life!

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 most home phones, mobiles may charge) on 0800 923 7000 or email us at
  • Whichever model you choose, make sure you buy it from a reputable outlet, such as a supermarket or DIY shop.
  • 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

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 – the alarms should be positioned 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 chirping like a budgie then the battery has expired and you need to take action now - but don’t worry, it’s a straightforward job.

Fire Angel alarms fitted by Kent Fire and Rescue Service have a 10-year battery life. The batteries in these smoke alarms cannot be replaced, but the good news is that if they are less than 10 years old they can be replaced for free. Contact Sprue on 0800 141 2561 for free advice and service.

Replacement is a very simple job. Grip the alarm and do a quarter turn to remove it from the base plate. If you can’t safely change the smoke alarm yourself please ask a relative or friend to help. 

If you are unable to do this or you have a different type of smoke alarm, please phone us on 0800 923 7000 for further advice.

If you have a  Fire Angel ST-622 smoke alarm with an expiry date of 2025 onwards, you can press the centre button to silence the chirping for eight hours, But if you do it more than seven times, the alarm may no longer work.

If it is more than two years since we fitted the alarm or you think your circumstances have changed you may be entitled to another home safety visit. Please phone us on 0800 923 7000 to find out.

Hard-wired alarms

Unfortunately we are can’t 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.

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