Fire safety tip of the month

Smoke alarms save lives.

Buying and fitting smoke alarms could help you to save your home and the lives of your family.

A smoke alarm (also known as a smoke detector) is a device that detects fire in its early stages and gives a loud audible warning.

Looking after your smoke alarms

Your smoke alarms needs regular maintenance:

  • Once a year replace the battery

  • Once a month check the alarm by pressing the test button

  • Once a year vacuum and wipe the smoke alarm casing to ensure dust isn't blocking the sensor chamber

  • If the alarm is mains powered alarms, switch it off first. Whatever happens, never remove the battery to use for other purposes

Remember, it's a lot easier to replace a dead battery!


If your smoke alarm is making an intermittent bleeping/chirping noise, please follow these steps:

  • Check that your smoke alarm is definitely the source of the bleeping/chirping; make sure the noise isn't coming from another alarm (smoke/carbon monoxide/gas/burglar alarm) by process of elimination

  • Clean the alarm as per the instructions above

  • Test the alarm by pressing the 'test' button

  • Change the battery (unless it's a ten-year alarm) or a hard-wired alarm

If the smoke alarm fails to operate or continues to chirp/bleep, please contact Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service by booking a home safety assessment by completing the following form:

Book a home safety assessment - and report a bleeping smoke alarm

Buying a new smoke alarm - what type of smoke alarm should I choose?

When deciding on which type of smoke alarms to buy you should consider which type of fire is more likely to occur in your home. However, the best protection would be to fit both and make sure that they have a continuous power supply such as mains power with a back-up battery.

Any smoke alarm that you buy should meet British Standard BS 5446 part 1 and carry the well-known Kitemark.

There are currently two types of smoke alarms on the market - ionisation and optical (also described as photoelectric or photoelectronic.)

  • Ionisation alarms - Costing from under £5 these are by far the cheapest smoke alarms you can buy, but this does not mean they are in anyway less effective. They are marginally less sensitive to slow burning and smouldering fires that give off larger quantities of smoke before flaming, but will detect flaming fires such as chip pans quickly before the smoke gets too thick.

  • Optical alarms - These are more expensive but more effective at detecting larger particles of smoke that are given off by slow burning fires, such as smouldering foam filled upholstery and overheated PVC wiring.

Each type looks similar and is powered by battery, mains electricity or both.

How and where to fit your smoke alarms

For maximum protection a smoke alarms should be fitted in every room of your house except the bathroom, kitchen and garage.

For minimum protection at least one alarm should be fitted on each level of your house.

Smoke alarms are simply screwed into the ceiling and should normally be fitted at least 30 centimetres (12 inches) away from any wall or light fitting and as close to the centre of the room, hallway or landing as possible. Always read the manufacturers instructions before fitting.


Former firefighter David Petley describes his experience of real life incidents and how smoke alarms save lives.

Smoke Alarms Save Lives!

Carry out your own home safety check

Complete our online home safety check and you will get a personalised fire safety plan, which will offer advice on how to prevent fires in your home.

Do the online home safety check

Book a home safety check

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service will fit free smoke alarms for people who are aged over 65 and for people who are referred to us by partner agencies because they are considered to be at a particular risk.

If you are over 65 years of age and you live in Cheshire, you can arrange for a Firefighter or a Community Safety Advocate to visit your home for a free home safety visit. During the home safety visit advice will be given on how to make your home safer, what to do in the event of a fire and what to do if you are trapped by a fire. Free smoke alarms will also be fitted (if needed) with an explanation on how to maintain them correctly.

Book a home safety visit for over 65’s

Last updated: Thursday 06 May 2021