Installing and Maintaining Smoke Alarms

Fitting smoke alarms is easy to do but you do need to consider where they will be installed.

You must also ensure you look after them - every year people are killed in fires because their alarms failed to work because of a flat or missing battery.

How many smoke alarms do you need?

The more alarms you have around your home, the safer you will be

  • If you live on one level, fit the alarm in the hallway between the living and sleeping areas.
  • If your home has more than one level, fit one alarm at the bottom of the staircase and further alarms on each landing.

Where to fit some alarms

Image displaying where to position a smoke alarm - Fit alarms on the ceiling, as near as possible to the centre of the room, hallway or landing. The alarm should be at least 30cm (12 inches) away from any wall or light

  • Always put smoke alarms where you will be able to hear them throughout the home, particularly when you're asleep or when doors are closed.
  • Ideal places are at the top of staircases, on stair landings, and between living and sleeping areas.
  • Fit alarms on the ceiling, as near as possible to the centre of the room, hallway or landing. The alarm should be at least 30cm (12 inches) away from any wall or light.

Where not to put a smoke alarm

Image displaying an example of where not to fix a smoke alarm - it is pictured in the kitchen, where it could be accidentally triggered by cooking fumes

Don't put a smoke alarm:

  • in the kitchen or bathroom, where it could be accidentally triggered by cooking fumes or steam
  • where you can't hear it while you're asleep
  • in a garage, where it could be triggered by exhaust fumes
  • on a wall. Smoke rises straight up towards the ceiling and will set the alarm off more quickly if the device is fixed to the ceiling - giving you more time to escape

Installing your smoke alarm

Image displaying a smoke alarm fixed to the wall which is not the correct position it should be in.

Installing a smoke alarm is easy to do and only takes a few minutes - just follow the manufacturer's instructions. If it's difficult for you to fit a smoke alarm, ask a family member or friend to help you, or contact Cornwall Fire Brigade on 0800 3581 999, where a member of staff will be happy to assist. Don't be tempted to have a go yourself if you feel unsteady or unsure - you could fall and injure yourself.

Maintaining smoke alarms

Image of how to test your smoke alarm - finger pointing up towards a smoke alarm - check yours regularly

You must look after your smoke alarms.
Every year people are killed in fires because their alarms failed to work because of flat or missing batteries.

  • Once a week test the battery by pressing the test button until the alarm sounds. If the alarm ever starts to 'beep' regularly, replace the battery as soon as possible.
  • Once a year change the battery (unless it is a 10-year alarm).
  • Twice a year open the case and gently vacuum the inside to remove dust from the sensor. If it doesn't open, vacuum through the holes.
  • After 10 years it's best to replace your smoke alarm with a whole new unit.

Further information

For more detailed information on what models of smoke alarms are available; including fire alarms for people with special needs, visit our page on smoke alarms

View our page on other fire safety equipment you may like to consider to keep your home safe from fire.