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A guide to buying fire alarms

There is one essential area in the home that cannot be overlooked. This is the area of fire safe alarms and smoke detection systems. Ensuring that your home is equipped with a suitable emergency alarm installation could end up saving not only your life, but the lives of all your family members. With that in mind, here is a guide to buying fire alarms.

Smoke detectors

Undoubtedly, the best defence against fire is early detection. It's critical that you install smoke or fire detectors on all levels of your house, including the basement if you have one, and outside each sleeping area. Put one inside any bedroom that houses a large electrical appliance, such as a television or computer. Install alarms at a safe distance from steamy showers and cookers that could trigger the sensor unnecessarily.

Types of alarms

There are two basic types of alarms. An ionisation unit emits a small amount of radiation that's detected by a sensor, and sounds like an alarm when smoke blocks the radiation from reaching the sensor. This type is best for detecting
fast-burning fires from paper, wood and fat. British Standard A photoelectric (optical) unit, triggered when smoke breaks a beam of light, is better at sensing smoky fires, such as smouldering mattresses, and is less likely to go off accidentally. Combined models are also available. Always make sure that your unit carries the British Standard Kitemark and meets the British Standard BS 5446-1.

Mains-powered alarms

Most smoke detectors are battery-powered, but some are wired into your home's electricity supply. So, there's no danger of the battery running out. They even have back-up batteries which take over in the event of a power cut. A
mains-powered smoke alarm must be fitted by a qualified technician.

Linked alarms

Fitting several home fire alarms which are all linked together could dramatically increase your escape time, particularly in large houses or if someone in the house is hard of hearing. With this type of system, all the alarms will sound as soon as one of them detects signs of a fire. So, you'll be woken upstairs as soon as a fire triggers the downstairs unit. Stand-alone alarms With stand-alone smoke alarms, the upstairs alarms wouldn't be triggered until the smoke or flames themselves had filled the house and reached the landing or the bedroom.

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