Smoke Detectors: Pull Your Finger Out!
As the recent campaign fronted by Julie Walters showed, a smoke detector without a battery is as useful as a bicycle for a haddock. In fact, it’s worse than useless, because it can lull you into a false sense of security. Luckily, the new generation of 10-year battery alarms and mains alarms take away that worry, and they are surprisingly cheap too.
Not all Smoke Alarms are Equal
There are three main types of alarm that can protect you and your home:
1. An ionisation smoke alarm detects fires that burn fast and with flames, such as furniture or fabrics. So, you should place these types of smoke detectors in your lounge and bedrooms, but NOT next to an en-suite bathroom. (Learn why a little later.)
If this alarm alerts you to a fire, the best extinguisher to have handy would be a 2kg domestic multi-rating ABC powder extinguisher.
2. A photoelectrical or optical smoke alarm detects smouldering or slow-burning fires that give off smoke and ash, rather than burst into flames. This is the best type of alarm to have near a kitchen or bathroom door, as they are not set off by steam or cooking particles. Place them in your hallway or landing, or anywhere near a bathroom door.
Again, make sure you also have easy access to a domestic-sized fire extinguisher upstairs, to save precious seconds running downstairs to fetch one.
3. A mains heat alarm only activates if the temperature rises above 57 degrees C (135 degrees F), so they are ideal for use in your kitchen. They are ideal as they won’t go off every time you fry or overcook a cake, but will alert you to a more serious incident.
Your kitchen fire safety kit should consist of at least a wall-mounted fire blanket and a multi-rated domestic fire extinguisher. If you have a lot of electrical equipment in your kitchen, you might like to also consider a CO2 fire extinguisher, to minimise damage to your expensive fridge or mixer!
Tackling Home Fires with a Fire Extinguisher
When your smoke detector alerts you and your family to a fire, always get the family outside first. If you consider the fire to be small enough to tackle with your fire extinguisher, do so, but don’t be a hero.
If in doubt, always get out, stay out and call the Fire Brigade.