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Fact: smoke alarms save lives

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) is encouraging residents of Berkshire to get into the routine of testing their smoke alarms every week.

You’re at least four times more likely to die in a fire in the home if there are no working smoke alarms. In the event of a fire, smoke alarms can give you the vital early warning that could allow you to escape from the property and call the emergency services.

Although most people are aware of the importance of smoke alarms in the home, 38% of all fire fatalities in 2014/15 had smoke alarms but they failed to operate. A number of reasons can contribute to the failure of operation including; fire product (e.g. smoke) not reaching the smoke alarms and batteries being removed, disconnected or dead. We strongly advise that under no circumstances should residents remove or disconnect the batteries from their smoke alarms, unless replacing batteries at the end of a smoke alarm’s lifespan.

In 2014/15 only 21% of mains operated smoke alarms failed to operate in comparison to 40% of battery operated smoke alarms. Mains operated smoke alarms are available to purchase but must be installed by a qualified person and should always have a battery powered back-up to ensure they are still able to operate even if the power is lost in your home.

Follow our top tips on smoke alarm testing and maintenance in your home to help us, help you:

  • Install smoke alarms in your home, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Test smoke alarms every week to make sure they are working.
  • The best places to fit them are at the bottom of the stairs, with further smoke alarms on each stair landing
  • The ideal position is on the ceiling, as near as possible to the centre of the room, hallway or landing.
  • Take time to check on elderly relatives and neighbours as they are at greater risk from fire, and test their smoke alarms for them. 

Look after your smoke alarms:

  • Once a week – test the batteries.
  • Once a year – change the batteries (unless it is a ten-year alarm).
  • Twice a year – gently vacuum to remove dust.
  • Every ten years – replace the entire smoke alarm.

Iain Harrison, Group Manager for Prevention, said: “One of our commitments to the residents of Berkshire is to educate people on how to prevent fires and other emergencies, and what to do when they happen. This campaign is just one of the ways we are fulfilling this commitment as many people believe just having smoke alarms is enough. We urge you to look after your smoke alarms, ensuring you follow the correct installation and maintenance of smoke alarms, significantly reducing your risk of becoming a statistic.

“A functional smoke alarm will not prevent a fire but will provide warning of a fire as soon as the fire product reaches the alarm, so if the worst should happen, it will provide you with an early warning and vital time to safely exit the property and alert the Fire Service. Once out of the property, stay out. Don’t put yourself at risk by returning for pets or belongings.”