June 14, 2016

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Fire Safety in Housing: Choosing the Right Alarm

Most people who die or are injured in house fires die from exposure to hazardous smoke and toxic gases rather than the actual heat or flames from the fire itself.

Our best advice is to fit smoke alarms to give yourself the earliest possible warning to get out the property safely, without harm if there is a fire.  You should follow the British standard BS5839-6:2013. As guidance, for a standard domestic house, fit smoke alarms:

  • In rooms frequently used for general daytime living, such as the living room.
  • Every circulation space, such as hallways and landings.
  • Additionally a heat alarm should be installed in every kitchen.
  • All alarms should be interlinked / interconnected.
  • Alarms should be Grade D mains powered and battery back-up.
  • Make sure you have smoke alarms on at least every level of your home.

Please note that the above can vary depending on your fire risk assessment.

Every house is different but as a minimum alarms should be fitted in hallways and landings, so that if there is a fire in these areas you can get out quickly. However there is more chance of a fire starting in a kitchen or living room, so alarms should be fitted here too.

The more alarms you have, the safer you’ll be. At minimum you should have one on each floor.

Challenges with fire safety in housing

A fire can occur anywhere, even where we least expect it. The biggest challenge is to raise awareness of fire safety and to ensure people make it a priority, because all too often, action to solve a problem is taken after an accident has occurred.  There are a number of other issues facing fire safety in housing, such as:

  • Choosing an alarm system based on cost and not quality.
  • Ignoring the dangers of fire and Carbon Monoxide.
  • Not choosing the right alarm / system.
  • Lack of knowledge concerning best practice.

Choosing the right alarm

A well-chosen and working smoke alarm may double your chances of surviving the fire. It is important to know the various types of smoke alarms and their strengths and weaknesses.

Some smoke alarms run on batteries which may need to be replaced once a year. Some smoke alarms are equipped with lithium batteries designed to last for 10 years. Whilst others are designed to be wired in to mains power and have a battery back-up in the event of a power cut.

If you have a large house, you may not hear an alarm going off in another room. Consider a smoke alarm system where alarms are interconnected or linked together so that when 1 detects smoke, they all sound.

Different types of alarms

Not all fires are the same. Smoke alarms have different sensors to detect different fire types, so it’s important to choose the right alarms to protect against all fire types.

Ionisation – They are most sensitive to small particles produced by rapid, clean burning fires. Best for fast-flaming fires producing significant amounts of heat, such as, papers and clothing. Smoke neutralises a current between two points resulting in the alarm sounding.  However may false alarm from cooking fumes.

Ionisation Alarms within the Aico range: Ei141RC / Ei161e

Heat – Best for detecting heat build-up from large flaming fires producing a lot of heat. A thermistor sensor responds to high temperatures and the alarm triggers at 58 °C. The alarm only responds to heat and therefore there are no false alarms from cooking fumes (toasting bread, grilling). Heat alarms are only suitable for kitchens, where smoke alarms may cause nuisance alarms.

Heat Alarms within the Aico range: Ei144RC / Ei164e

Optical – A single sensor alarm. An infa-red beam detects smoke in the sensor chamber. Smoke scatters the beam onto a receiver, resulting in the alarm sounding. Sensitive to large particle smoke and best for slow, smouldering fires producing little heat, e.g. Sofas, Tv’s.

Optical Alarms within the Aico range: Ei146RC / Ei166e

Multi Sensor – The E2110e Multi-Sensor Fire Alarm responds to all fire types providing a total fire response and making it the most reliable and effective alarm on the market.  It contains two sensor types, optical and heat. The two sensors constantly monitor smoke and heat levels, sending and receiving signals via the Multi-Sensor’s intelligent software. The E2110e is less likely to nuisance alarm and the sensor compensates for dust build-up.

The Ei2110e contains AudioLINK which allows you to extract data from the alarm using the sounder directly to a Smartphone or Tablet via an app. AudioLINK can be used:

  • As part of the property checks prior to change of tenants.
  • To generate real time information if a tenant reports an issue with the alarms.
  • To keep a physical record of the alarms history.
  • As an asset management tool.

Multi-Sensor Alarms: Ei2110e

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Sign up for Martyn’s panel discussion on fire safety in housing
A panel debate about fire safety in housing will take place at FIREX International 2016 on 22nd June. Register here


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Why interconnect alarms

If you put a smoke alarm in a room and there is a fire, that alarm will go off. However if you are in a different room you may not hear it, and so may not get out in time. Remember, fire spreads fast. You can prevent this by connecting smoke alarms throughout the house. If one alarm goes off, it will set off all the other alarms, giving the earliest possible warning to get out of the property safely.

How to interconnect alarms

Hard-wiring – This involves running cabling between each alarm in the property. This can cause a lot of hassle, drilling holes, chasing cables and re-decorating which can be expensive and messy.

RadioLINK – RadioLink allows alarms to interconnect with each other using radio frequency signals, by simply fitting a RadioLINK base under each alarm in the system. This avoids the need for hard-wiring, saves time, hassle and disruption.

RadioLINK+ – Also allows alarms to interconnect with each other using radio frequency signals, but with new functionality, including data extraction and monitoring.

Data can be extracted from each alarm on the system. Retrieving data, such as, how many direct button tests have been performed, or when a false alarm has taken place. This allows you to build up a history of alarm systems from properties.

RadioLINK+ has an enhanced self-monitoring function that recognises system tampering or alarm head removal. This is done through the House-Code feature that allows alarms to speak to one another within the same system.

AICO’s timeline

Innovation is a core value at Aico. Our products have constantly evolved to provide quality, reliability and functionality.

1975 – First Ionisation alarm manufactured.

1992 – First heat and optical alarms manufactured Ei103 and Ei105.

1993 – Mains powered smoke/heat alarm launched Ei150.

1995 – First CO alarm manufactured Ei220.

1999 – Ei140 and Ei160 Series mains powered easi-fit smoke/heat alarms launched.

2003 – Industry first RadioLINK product introduced, the Ei168RC allowing alarms to interconnect wirelessly through radio frequency signals.

2008 – Ei600 Series battery powered smoke / heat alarms launched.

Industry first Multi-Sensor Fire Alarm, Ei2110e, manufactured that responds to all fire types.

2014 – First AudioLINK product manufactured, Ei208 CO alarm allowing data to be extracted to a Smartphone or Tablet device.

More on fire safety in housing at FIREX International 2016

Hear more from me on this subject by attending my panel discussion on ‘fire safety in housing’ at FIREX. This will take place on 22 June at 14.40 in The Expertise and Guidance Theatre and I will be joined by Fire Safety Officer from Catalyst Housing and Senior Fire Risk Manager from BB7.

On the panel I will highlight the importance of fire safety within the home. I will explain how Aico have developed a range of high quality, reliable and innovative products and new technologies to help improve the level of protection homeowners and tenants receive. Visitors can learn about choosing the right alarms and accessories for a property, flexibility and technical solutions. As well as advice on industry best practice, British standards and regulations.

Register here for my ‘fire safety in housing’ panel discussion.

A wholly owned subsidiary of Ei Electronics, Aico are a mSarket leader in residential fire and CO protection in the UK. All alarms are designed and built in Ireland specifically to meet the UK standards and regulations. With more mains powered domestic smoke alarms installed in the UK’s social housing than any other manufacturer, Aico are tried, tested and trusted. For more information please visit www.aico.co.uk.

Free download: Fire Safety Guide

Business owners have many responsibilities, but the consequences of neglecting your fire safety responsibilities are potentially unthinkable.

Know your fire safety responsibilities. Download this guide to get:

  • A beginner’s guide to the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order
  • Your guide to fire risk assessments
  • Further guides covering fire doors, fire alarm systems, smoke detectors, fire escape signs, sprinklers, water-mist systems and fire safety training

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