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Smoke alarms – why testing isn’t enough

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We all know the importance of having smoke alarms in our property, whether as a homeowner or a landlord. In fact, for private landlords, alongside having carbon monoxide detectors, it is the law. 

You may also be aware of the fact that you should regularly check your smoke detector – the Devon and Somerset Fire Service says that you should test it once a week, by pressing the test button until the alarm sounds.

Research from consumer organisation Which? a few years back revealed, however, that:

  • around one in ten of their members never check that their battery-powered smoke alarm is working;
  • only 5% check their smoke alarm once a week;
  • 11% only check their alarm when it beeps.

And while these statistics are worrying, what you may not be aware of, though, is that simply testing your smoke alarm on a regular basis isn’t enough.

Here is what else you need to do …

Are your smoke alarms powered by the mains?

If your alarm is powered by your home's electricity supply, then you probably don’t even think about whether it has a battery back up inside which will also need testing. If it does, then make sure you regularly replace the battery – the Fire Service recommends you change it once a year. 

How old is your smoke alarm?

Another common oversight is that once a smoke detector is installed, you tend to forget about it. Even if you do regularly test it and change the batteries, did you know that the unit itself has an expiry date too, typically of ten years?

While there are different models and makes of smoke detector, generally somewhere on the fitting you will be able to see an expiry date.

Clean it at least twice a year

Finally, once every three to six months it is recommended that you remove any dust and debris from the alarm – you can do this by using the soft brush of your vacuum cleaner. 

If this is hard to remember, the Fire Service website recommends you make a habit of removing the smoke alarm covers and vacuuming inside the device when you change the clocks (i.e. twice a year).

Get reminders

While all these activities will only take a few minutes to do every so often, they can save lives. Remembering to do it, of course, may be difficult.

The good news is that you can sign up to the Fire Service smoke alarm fire reminder service which can email or tweet you when you need to test your alarm; check the batteries; and replace the unit.