Fire Alarms in the Home

Smoke alarms save lives : Protect what matters!

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Fire alarms in the home (that’s smoke and heat detectors to most of us!) provides an early warning – and time to escape – that really does save lives.

The BSI’s recent update of the domestic fire detection and alarm system standard, specifically Part 6 of BS 5839, outlines the code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in domestic properties.

Below we outline the key changes to the BS 5839-6 Standard and the areas professionals should be aware of to ensure they’re offering individuals the highest standard of fire protection throughout all types of domestic properties. This applies to architects, building professionals, installers and enforcing authorities.

revised system grading for fire detection and fire alarm systems:

Whilst BS 5839-6 has previously been split into six varying Grades, each outlining the level of protection appropriate for certain properties and their corresponding levels of risk, the new update has altered the six sections, removing Grade B and Grade E, whilst Grade D and Grade F have been split into Grade D1 / Grade D2 and Grade F1 / Grade F2 respectively. Grade C has been revised and its recommendations expanded.

The new grading system:
Grade A
Separate detectors, sounders and central control and indicating equipment with a back-up power supply that conforms to British Standards BS EN 54.
Grade C
Separate detectors and sounders that are mains powered with back-up power supply and central control equipment.
Grade D1
A system of one or more mains powered detectors, each with a tamper-proof standby supply consisting of a battery or batteries.
Grade D2
A system of one or more mains-powered detectors, each with an integral standby supply consisting of a user-replaceable battery or batteries.
Grade F1
A system of one or more battery-powered detectors powered by a tamper-proof primary battery or batteries.
Grade F2
A system of one or more battery-powered detectors powered by a user-replaceable primary battery or batteries.
Grades B and E
No longer defined in BS 5839-6:2019.

Categories for fire detection and fire alarm systems
(as per bS 5839-6:2019)

With regard to categories, the standard of protection in sheltered housing flats has been increased from Category LD2 to Category LD1, positioning it as a higher potential risk. To meet LD1 requirements, the installation of a fire detection system is required throughout the premises – this includes all rooms (and circulation areas that form part of the escape routes) except toilets, bathrooms and shower rooms.

The three categories for fire detection and fire alarm systems are listed below and outline where fire detection systems should be installed:

LD1 Maximum Protection

Escape routes, high-risk rooms plus all areas where a fire might start

Category LD1: The highest level of protection of all occupants who might occupy the dwelling over the lifetime of the fire detection and fire alarm system. A system installed throughout the premises, incorporating detectors in all circulation areas that form part of the escape routes from the premises, and in all rooms and areas, other than those with negligible sources of ignition, such as toilets, bathrooms and shower rooms.

Hallway, Landing, Living Room, Kitchen (Heat alarm), Bedroom, Airing / Meter Cupboards, Loft, Garage

Fire Alarm Category LD 1 Additional Protection

LD2 Maximum Protection

Escape routes plus high-risk rooms

Category LD2: A system incorporating detectors in all circulation areas that form part of the escape routes from the premises, and in all specified rooms or areas that present a high fire risk to occupants, including any kitchen and the principal habitable room.

Hallway, Landing, Living Room, Kitchen (Heat alarm)

Fire Alarm Category LD 2 Additional Protection

LD3 Maximum Protection

Escape routes only

Category LD3: A system incorporating detectors in all circulation areas that form part of the escape routes from the premises.

Hallway, Landing

Note: This minimum category now only applies to an owner-occupied bungalow, flat, single-storey unit or maisonette with no floor level above 4.5m from ground level or owner-occupied two-storey house.

Fire Alarm Category LD 3 Additional Protection

which smoke alarm should i choose?

The general rule is quite easy;

Heat alarm: Kitchen, loft, and garage

Smoke alarm: All circulation areas (e.g. landings, hallways), bedrooms and living rooms

Carbon Monoxide alarm: All rooms with a fuel-burning appliance, bedrooms

how many should i fit in my home?

The number of smoke alarms to fit in your home depends on your particular circumstances.

Fires can start anywhere, so the more that are fitted, the higher the level of protection.

For maximum protection, an alarm should be fitted in every room (except bathrooms as steam may trigger the alarm) You should choose the type most suited to the risk in each room. For minimum protection the number to be fitted will depend on the type of home you live in.

If your home is on one floor, one smoke alarm, preferably of the optical type, may be enough to provide you with early warning of a fire.

If your home has more than one floor, at least one alarm should be fitted on each level. In this case, a combination of optical and ionisation alarms, preferably interconnected, will give the best protection.

where do i fit my heat or smoke alarms?

Smoke alarms are usually screwed onto the ceilings, although specialist sticky pads can be used, and should be fitted as close to the centre of the room as possible, but at least 30 centimetres (12 inches) away from any wall or light fitting. You should always make sure that your alarm is fitted in a place where it can be heard throughout your home – particularly when you are asleep.

If your home is on one level, you should fit the alarm in the hallway between the living and sleeping areas. If you have only one smoke alarm and two floors, put it where you can hear it when you are asleep – on the ceiling at the top of the stairs leading to the bedrooms.

If you have a TV or other large electrical appliance in your bedroom, you should fit a smoke alarm there.

where do i fit my carbon monoxide alarm?

The British Standard EN 50292 standard recommends that a CO alarm should be installed:

     a) Between 1m–3m from all potential sources of carbon monoxide (fuel-burning appliances)

     b) Sited 300mm from walls and light fittings – this is to ensure that they are outside of any ‘dead air’ spaces that occur in corners and spaces where the airflow may be blocked

     c) If the fuel-burning appliance is in a confined space (e.g. a boiler room) then the alarm should be sited on the ceiling just outside the room

     d) If there is no fuel-burning appliance, then place the alarm at breathing height e.g. bed’s head height in bedroom

Each type looks similar and is powered either by a battery, or mains electricity (or a combination of both, with the battery being the backup for the mains power, which could be interrupted). Some are interlinked so that any smoke detected in one room can raise the alarm at all others. This interlink can be achieved at the least cost with radio-interlinked smoke alarms.

In a standard smoke alarm, the battery will need to be replaced every 12 months. You can buy alarms fitted with sealed 10-year batteries. The advantage is that you don’t have to replace the battery every year.

In addition, for people who are hard of hearing or deaf, there are smoke alarm systems for the deaf. When the alarm goes off, a pad below the pillow vibrates (if you are asleep), and a strobe light flashes – alerting you or waking you up instantly.

Fire Risk Consultancy Services have the knowledge and experience to assist your business to comply with all legal requirements surrounding Fire Safety including the legislation regarding Fire Alarms. Be sure to read our accompanying guides: British Standards Relating to Fire Alarms,  A Guide to Fire Alarm System Types, Categories of Fire Alarm Systems, Different Types of Fire Detector Head, AND Fire Extinguishers, Emergency Lighting, Fire Door Regulations, Fire Safety Signs, also published on this site. 

Please take a moment to have a look around our website where you will find related articles and guides to all the services we can provide your business with, from providing Fire Risk Assessments, fire safety training, full advisory service to Articles on Fire Safety Provisions and our Top Fire Safety Tips!