Domestic fire detection & alarms – don’t become a statistic

23 Sep 2022
BY Zicam Integrated Security Ltd

We all know the importance of an integrated fire detection system in the workplace – with potentially dozens (and up to hundreds) of people to manage and evacuate, an early warning system combining heat and smoke detection is critical. But many neglect to pay the same attention to domestic fire detection. Numerous homes across the UK have insufficient fire detection, in fact, 1 in 10 homes in England don’t have a working fire alarm at all.

Here’s the lowdown on why it’s essential to have a working fire detection system in your home and a quick guide to the type of alarm(s) you need and where to install them.

Why domestic fire detection is critical

The biggest ‘why’ underpinned the government’s ‘Fire Kills’ campaign when it launched in 2020. One of the most powerful statistics stated that, if you don’t have a working smoke alarm in your home, you’re 8 times more likely to die from fire. And if that’s not enough, the Home Office confirmed that for the 2021/22 financial year in England alone there were:

  • 194 domestic fire fatalities
  • 1487 people requiring first aid through domestic fire
  • 413 hospital visit with severe injuries through domestic fire
  • 1545 hospital visits with slight injuries

Although fatalities are falling year-on-year (down from 338 in 2017), there’s no reason to get complacent about installing a system, or regularly testing the one you have. Having fire detection in the home provides an early alert of smoke or fire, which means occupants can get to safety at the earliest possible opportunity.

Finding the right type of fire detection system

We’re calling it a system because it includes more than one connected alarm. A great fire protection system including smoke, heat and carbon monoxide (CO₂) alarms doesn’t have to be costly and can be installed within a couple of hours.

Smoke, heat and CO₂ alarms can be found in most DIY shops and easily fitted, but make sure they are marked with a current British Standards safety mark. In England and Wales fire alarms have a minimum recommendation of:

  • Category LD3 – where detectors are installed in all spaces that act as escape routes
  • Grade D – requires one or more connected smoke and heat alarms with backup power supply

Where to locate your fire detection alarms

Smoke alarms – Not suitable for kitchens or bathrooms because of the smoke and steam both generate. There should be a smoke alarm within 3 metres of every bedroom door so they can be easily heard when triggered and positioned as centrally as possible within the room. They should be 300 millimetres from walls and light fittings so performance isn’t inhibited by blocked airflow.

Heat alarms – These are used in kitchens and bathrooms to avoid false alarms that could occur with a smoke alarm; heat alarms activate at 58°C. They should be sited on a ceiling 300 millimetres from walls and fittings.

Carbon monoxide alarms – These too should be installed on the ceiling between 1 to 3 metres from all potential sources of CO₂ (such as heaters) and, like the previous two alarms, 300 millimetres from walls and fittings. The manufacturers instructions will give further detail about placing and testing.

As a minimum there should be one smoke alarm per floor and a heat detector in the kitchen.

Looking after your domestic fire detection system

Now you have your system you need to look after is by following these 4 easy steps:

  1. Don’t paint or cover the alarms
  2. Vacuum or dust them regularly to keep them free of debris
  3. Test them regularly – ideally once a week
  4. Modern alarms come with a 10-year lithium battery lifetime and should be replaced at that time (the date is stamped on the base of the detector)

It’s not a difficult task to ensure you and your loved ones are kept safe from fire and smoke in your own home. There’s a wealth of information online about different makes and brands, but if you want to talk to an expert about the best route forward for you, please get in touch with us today.

Anthony Pritchard, Fire Design Project Manager, Zicam Integrated Security Limited.

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