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Smoke alarm systems

If you are deaf or have hearing loss, there are smoke alarm systems available that can help alert you when an alarm goes off in your home.

This information applies to smoke alarm systems designed for use in private housing. Different guidance applies to smoke alarm systems in public areas.

If you’re deaf or have hearing loss, it’s vital that you have a smoke alarm system fitted in your home that can alert you to potential danger. These systems don’t just rely on loud noise to alert you, they include sensory alerts specially for people with hearing loss, such as:

  • vibrating pads 
  • vibrating pagers 
  • flashing lights.

Some systems include carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. Smoke alarm systems wirelessly link the smoke and heat detectors to the sensory alerting devices. Some are part of a multi-alerting system that notifies you of the doorbell, telephone and other alerts, so shop around to find one that best meets your needs.


What to look for in a smoke alarm system

A British Standard (BS 5446 part 3: 2015) sets out the requirements that fire and carbon monoxide alarms for people who are deaf or have hearing loss should meet.

A smoke alarm system for people who are deaf or have hearing loss not designed to the standard will offer basic protection (it will provide an alert in the event of a detecting smoke, heat or CO); however, it may not meet certain performance requirements or have the fail-safe features recommended in the standard.

You should look for:

  • a bright flashing light to alert you when you’re awake. To make sure you’re alerted when you’re in other parts of the house, you can either get additional strobe lights for different rooms, or wear a vibrating pager
  • a vibrating pad that goes under a pillow (or mattress if it’s powerful enough) to alert you when you’re asleep. The pad should be difficult to unplug or disconnect and a warning light should come on if you do so accidentally
  • enough range, to cover all parts of your home
  • an easy-to-use test button, so the system is easy to test regularly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • battery backup, if you have a mains-powered system, so that if there’s a power failure, or if the system is unplugged from the mains, it will keep working for at least 72 hours.

Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms

A faulty gas appliance, such as a boiler or gas fire, can lead to CO poisoning, which can be fatal. Open coal fires, wood burners and multi-fuel systems can also be a source of carbon monoxide poisoning if there isn’t enough ventilation.

A CO alarm will give an early, loud warning if there is a problem. Some smoke alarm systems for people who are deaf or have hearing loss include a carbon monoxide alarm – with an additional vibrating or visual alert (or both). 
 
We recommend fitting a CO detector that meets BS EN 50291 part 1 and that has the BSI Kitemark™  symbol.

The BSI Kitemark™ symbol

For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning, including how to prevent it, and how to maintain and service your appliances, visit the NHS website.


How to get a free home fire safety check

Members of your local fire and rescue service can visit your home for what’s known as a Safe and Well visit.

They can:

  • check for any fire risks and let you know how to reduce or prevent them  
  • check your smoke alarms are working and can alert you 
  • give you advice on what action you can take in the event of fire.

To book a free visit, contact your local fire and rescue service. You can find your local service on the National Fire Chiefs Council website. 

Tell the safety team that you’re deaf or have hearing loss, and whether you use hearing aids or a cochlear implant, so they can recommend the most suitable smoke alarm to meet your needs. If you have severe or profound hearing loss, you may be able to get a smoke alarm free of charge from your fire and rescue service or your local authority. The safety team will be able to advise you on this.


Smoke alarms for new-build houses and flats

UK regulations require that all new-build houses and flats (including conversions) are fitted with interconnected smoke alarms on each floor. This means that if one alarm goes off, it sets off all the others within the house or flat. But these systems may not be installed with vibrating pads and flashing lights.

If you live in a flat, the fire and rescue team may suggest changes or modifications to the system (which could mean additional parts or replacement) to meet your needs. 
 
Interconnected smoke alarm systems are mains-powered. Any modifications or replacements should be carried out by a fully qualified installer to BS5839 part 6: 2013.


How to install your smoke alarm system

If you install a smoke alarm yourself, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the best place to fit it and how many you should have on each floor.

If someone else does the installation, they should fit the smoke alarm to the British Standard BS 5839 part 6: 2013 – a code of practice that’s standard for the installation of smoke alarms in homes.

Make sure your boiler, cooker, heating system and other appliances are installed and regularly serviced by a reputable, registered engineer.


How to test your smoke alarm system

Read the manufacturer’s instructions to find out:

  • how to test your smoke alarm system 
  • how often you should test it 
  • when it should be replaced 
  • how to keep it clean.

Keep the instructions that come with your smoke alarm for easy reference.


Where to get more information on fire safety

For more information on fire safety, contact your local fire and rescue service – you can find its details on the National Fire Chiefs Council website.


Where to buy a smoke alarm system

A smoke alarm system designed to BS5446 part 3 2015 is available from FireBlitz. Visit the FireBlitz online shop.

Smoke alarm systems are also available from Connevans, a leading supplier of assistive technology. Browse the Connevans online shop.


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