A fire alarm could save your life, so it is worth the small upfront cost. Find out more about fire alarm installation cost and options available here.
Installing a fire alarm is the easiest way to protect you and your household against the danger of fire. They are cheap, readily available and also easy to install. And if you are still not convinced, perhaps the following statistics will:
- You have twice the chances of dying in a fire at home if you have not installed a fire alarm.
- Three of every five people dying from the fire did not have any fire alarm or the fire alarm was not working.
- Every three days someone dies from a fire started by a cigarette.
- Toxic smoke can kill you within minutes.
On this page
- 1 How much is a fire alarm?
- 2 How many fire alarms do I need?
- 3 Fire Alarm Types
- 4 UK Fire Alarm Regulations
- 5 How to maintain a smoke detector
- 6 What should my fire alarm maintenance contract include?
- 7 How do I test my fire alarm system?
- 8 Is there anything else I need to do once I have got my smoke alarm?
- 9 Are there any additional ways to protect my house from a fire?
- 10 Fire alarm installation cost
How much is a fire alarm?
How much is a fire alarm depends on what type of fire alarm you opt for and it could cost you from as little as £8.99 or you may even be eligible for a free fire alarm and fitting. Make sure you check with your local fire service for details.
How many fire alarms do I need?
The more fire alarms you have, the safer your house will be, but as a general rule of thumb aim for a minimum of one per floor and in a location where you will be able to hear it even if when you are sleeping.
Fire Alarm Types
There are many types of fire alarm systems to choose from:
A hard-wired fire alarm: As the name suggests, is wired into the structure of a building. This means they are usually more expensive to install, so are best suited to new build properties.
A wireless fire alarm system: It is generally easy and cheap to install as they don’t require lots of wiring; they are also good for properties with multiple buildings such as schools.
Optical fire alarms: They are good for detecting slow-burning fires which produce larger smoke particles. Inside the alarm, a laser light is shone over a receptor and when smoke intercepts this connection the alarm is triggered.
Ionising fire alarms: They are good for detecting small particles of smoke released from high flaming fires. Inside the ionising alarm, there are two electrically charged plates and a small amount of radiation to ionise the air. When smoke enters this system it neutralises the air and triggers the alarm.
Addressable fire alarm system: These are often installed in large properties or premises with multiple buildings, such as hospitals. Multiple alarms are installed throughout the area and linked together; a central panel is then able to pinpoint which sensor has been triggered and therefore where the fire started. Addressable alarms can also be linked to the fire service who can then provide an automatic response.
UK Fire Alarm Regulations
Under articles 13 and 17 of the Fire Safety Order 2005, you have to install detectors and alarms in any domestic building and make sure they are properly maintained. Regulations also state that you should have a battery backup for a system connected to the mains.
In the home, it is your responsibility to install a fire alarm, except if you are now building a new house, an extension or carrying out a large alteration, like a loft conversion. In these cases, you must adhere to the 2006 revised building regulations (pdf), which usually mean installing adequate alarms.
It is your responsibility to install an alarm in your property, unless you are building a new home or extending, refurbishing or converting a house. In these cases, you need to adhere to UK Fire Safety building regulations and install a fire alarm that complies with British Standards 5839-6:2004. Regulations state that you should:
- Make sure fire alarms are fitted in circulation areas, for example in hallways between bedrooms
- Install at least one alarm per storey of a property
- Ideally, choose ceiling mounted alarms
- Install fire alarms away from heaters, air conditioning units or in areas where steam or condensation build up, such as bathrooms
- Be able to reach the alarm to perform maintenance
Remember – your fire alarm is useless if it’s not working, so test yours every week, fit new batteries at least once a year and replace your alarm completely every 10 years. Commercial fire alarm systems need to be regularly maintained and tested by a professional alarm company.
How to maintain a smoke detector
You will need to take a few precautionary steps to make sure that your smoke alarm stays in working order, this includes testing it once a week, this is easily done by simply pressing the test button until the alarm goes off. You will also need to remember to change the battery once a year (unless you have purchased one of the ten year alarm systems), it is a good idea to do this on an important date, to make sure that you always remember. And finally, you will need to get a whole new fire alarm every ten years for optimal performance.
There are numerous ways to make sure you avoid losing your property or endangering the lives of the ones you love, simply by maintaining a regular and comprehensive Fire Alarm Maintenance Contract. This written document is designed to ensure the safety of you and your employees and protect the insurance on your building by outlining a well planned, highly efficient fire maintenance and exit programme.
What should my fire alarm maintenance contract include?
Your fire alarm maintenance contract should be agreed upon either between you and senior officials or between you and the installation company who (may or may not) provide maintenance service as part of their original contract. Either way, the contract should include clear and precise details on how to:
- Test the system regularly (see below).
- Have a clear, written fire evacuation plan that should be communicated to all colleagues, including new recruits, and practised at least once a month.
- Have trained fire wardens on hand to help direct employees out of the building, preserve a calm atmosphere and make certain nobody is left behind.
- Report and log any faults or queries you might have regarding the fire alarm systems immediately, and see that repairs and/or replacement are carried out as soon as possible.
How do I test my fire alarm system?
In accordance with the British Standards BS 5859, Part 1:2002 + A2: 2008 guidelines, and under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2006, a competent and fully trained individual must (at least on a quarterly basis) check:
- The speed and efficiency of the automatic fire detection system.
- That all emergency lighting is operable and working to a satisfactory standard.
- That all emergency exits can be clearly identified by employees and visitors and that such gangways and corridors remain unobstructed.
- That the building contains enough fire extinguishers in accordance with its size and that all such extinguishers are fully operable in the case of a fire.
Remember that the most important job of a maintenance contract is not only to prevent the possibility of a fire occurring in the building but also to ensure the safe and speedy response of you and your team in case the fire alarm detector goes off.
You should, therefore, make sure that your contract is comprehensively designed to cater for every possible scenario in which a fire might occur, including looking after any disabled employees in the building – do you have ramps installed for proper exits? Or is strobe lighting needed to cater for those with impaired hearing? Your contract should cover all of this information and anything else you think of.
It might sound like a lot of hassle, but such a contract is required by law and will help minimise the risk of both fires and false alarms while giving you and your employees much-valued peace of mind – something that should be aspired to no matter how long it takes.
Is there anything else I need to do once I have got my smoke alarm?
It might seem a bit dramatic but it is worth planning an escape route for the whole household to follow, in the event of a fire. You will need to tell everyone of the plan including children in order for it to be carried out effectively. So how do you plan an ‘escape route’ in case of a fire? Here are a few tips to help you:
- The best escape route is usually the simplest, in other words, the way you get out of your house normally.
- Plan ahead and think of any difficulties you might encounter, for example, you may choose to put torches in everyone’s room so they can see their way outside.
- Always think of a second route, just in case the first one is blocked. Plan B is always a must!
- Remember to try and clear exits of any obstacles.
- Think about special measures you may need to implement for children, elderly or disabled people.
- Don’t forget about your pets! Plan how you will get them outside safely too.
Are there any additional ways to protect my house from a fire?
Accidental fires cause a number of injuries and fatalities year-on-year, not to mention millions of pounds in damage to building structures and household and business property. Fortunately, there are also a number of more sophisticated methods that can be quickly and cheaply installed for the protection of you and your family at home.
The most popular sprinkler systems utilise a combination of devices that automatically distribute water where it is needed in the building and simultaneously sound a warning alarm.
A wet pipe system is suitable for homes where there is no danger of the water freezing in the night; it involves the presence of continuous pressurised water in special bulbs that shatter once the liquid has expanded in response to increased heat.
A dry pipe system, on the other hand, involves the use of pressurised air; the installed sprinkler heads contain a small pellet shaped fusible alloy that is designed to melt at a predetermined temperature; once it melts air rises into the pipes reducing the air pressure, which then releases a valve that allows water to flow freely from the main supply.
Sprinkler systems can be expensive (especially the dry pipe option) but they cause less damage to property than fire hoses and have proven 98% effective at preventing fires from spreading to other rooms in the building.
No longer restricted to heavy steel designs for major industries and warehouses, fire doors can offer
increased security and can save valuable time, allowing you to quickly get in touch with the fire brigade. The three main types of fire doors are FD30, FD60 and FD120 – the numbers referring to the amount of time (in minutes) that the door is able to hold back the fire and prevent it from spreading into the next room.
There are also a variety of specialised options you can add to your fire doors, from smoke seals (which prevent the toxic fumes from escaping) to door closers (either automatic or by metal arm) to increase your home’s protection. Perfect for preserving more valuable items in your home until the fire service are able to abate the condition. The most basic frame of fire door costs as little as £65 plus installation costs that vary from anywhere between £45-£100, depending on the number of extras you want put in.
Fire alarm control panel
An electronic fire alarm unit operates by monitoring your home at all times – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The most basic system consists of a main control panel that shows a number of LED lights, each of which represent a particular room or zone in the property.
If a smoke detector is triggered, a warning alarm will sound and you will have a preset amount of time to enter a special key code before the system notifies the fire department – allowing you to prevent a call out for a false alarm.
The downside is that many of these systems function by receipt of monthly payments – meaning regular financial investment. Nevertheless, these electronic units can work in up to thirty-two rooms or zones and can even reduce the insurance payments that cover you for fire costs, as the system usually gets the fire brigade to your home quicker than an ordinary call.
Fire alarm installation cost
In general, household smoke detectors are very cheap. Optical systems are more expensive than ionised ones and addressable, sprinkler or wireless systems would cost more. You should check with a professional fire alarm company for exact costings. Gary estimates that: “A basic smoke detection system with half a dozen panels and some flashing lights would be around £1,000.”
image credit: directdoors.com