What to look for on a domestic fire alarm

fire alarm white

We’ve all known that alarm sound indicating that our toast is burnt, just one of the few instances we are reminded that the smoke alarm fitted nearby is still alive however the rest of the time it’s largely forgotten. We’re reminded to replace the batteries in a smoke alarm on an annual basis and use the test button to check the circuitry (both incredibly important) but how can we be sure that the sensors are going to work correctly in a real fire?

Domestic fire alarms have served to make a substantial contribution to supporting the downward trend of serious fire events so it’s critical that they work as they should on that rare occasion when it is something more serious than toast.

At our test laboratories in Hemel Hempstead, UK - our experienced engineers will spend hours subjecting these devices to numerous tests with specialist equipment to ensure that they will work correctly. Each fire alarm model or family of products will undergo a series of tests in accordance with standard BS EN 14604. For example;

  • Clauses 5.2 to 5.4 check that the alarms have the correct and consistent sensitivity to smoke events. Our smoke tunnels will slowly and accurately increase the concentration of aerosol simulating smoke so that a precise trigger point can be established. These samples are checked numerous times and in several orientations.
  • Depending on the type of sensor incorporated in the device, external factors like being positioned next to bright lights or in corridors with drafts has the potential to affect the alarms.  (Clauses 5.5 and 5.6 make sure this isn’t the case). Environmental conditioning tests in accordance with clauses 5.7 to 5.14 cover vibration, corrosive atmospheres, cooling, heating and humidity. These check that not only does it work when taken out of the packet, but also properly over its full lifecycle and in real world conditions.

Smoke alarms are only useful if they are powered. For non-mains type alarms this means that charged batteries have to be fitted. The danger of this is that there are a number of scenarios where they might be removed and not replaced; such as when the low battery indication sound becomes too annoying in the middle of the night or they are swapped out to power another gadget which seems more important at the time.  No doubt if removed it’s done so with the full intention of replacing them as soon as possible, but with our busy lives it’s easy to forget.

The requirement of the standard even has this covered with requirements for mechanism that makes the absent battery obvious. Clause 4.13 battery removal indication may be met by simple means but is so important

Most major retailers are aware of the benefits and enhanced safety of tested and certified products, therefore will often only offer such products in their stores. However, with the increase of online shopping it is difficult to know whether the cheaper products online meet with safety regulations.  We know that smoke alarms are important and we should fit one but what sways our choice to one product or another? Aesthetic design, 5 star customer reviews and price may be the usual deciding factors but when it’s your safety at risk you really need to be 100% confident that your fire safety product will work. That’s why you should always choose products that display reputable third party certification marks indicating that they‘re tested and audited to the stringent requirements of industry standards such as the Kitemark.

Robert Hearty

Robert Hearty

Fire Team Leader