Smoke Alarm Testing: What You Need To Know

test smoke alarm pictureIf there was just one device in the home we need to remember to test it’s the smoke alarm. The importance of testing smoke alarms is unprecedented, if you rent a property out to tenants or you employ workers within a business then it is your legal duty to make sure your fire safety systems are working properly. If you are approaching this from a domestic angle then it may not be your legal duty to check your smoke alarms but it’s certainly in your best interests.

Failing to check your fire safety systems can come with grave consequences; this includes damage to the building’s structure, its contents inside, life long injuries or loss of life. A quick and easy smoke alarm test can help to prevent any of these life changing events from happening. Conventional smoke alarms won’t be able to stop the fire from igniting but they’ll give you a damn better chance of knowing it’s started than not having one.

You can install the fanciest fire prevention equipment available but if you don’t know when you last tested the device it’s a complete waste of time. Granted, for something you rarely use or get to see in action it can be hard to remember it even exists. Yet for the one time it is needed, if it isn’t working, it’ll put everyone’s safety in jeopardy. Most professionals advise checking your smoke detectors at least once a month, ideally once a week.

Follow our step by step guide on how to check your smoke alarms:

One logoMake everyone aware inside of the building that you’re going to attempt to test your smoke alarms. This is particularly essential if your alarms are connected up to a vast technical circuit covering a lot of ground.

For instance places like shopping centres will use a variety of fire safety systems dotted around the building. These are commonly hardwired into the same system so each device can interact with one another. Like most shopping centres there are usually some big burly security guards knocking around, so in order to keep them happy, and not create hysteria with shoppers, you should notify all relevant persons before testing the smoke alarms.

At home, just make all the family and friends aware that you’re planning to test the smoke alarms. This heads up is more for the convenience of mum relaxing, the cat snoozing or the kids playing rather than controlling a worried crowd or breaching safety.

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If you are able to, position people in different locations of the building. Just because you may be able to hear it from where you are it doesn’t necessarily mean others will hear it from a different location. You need make sure that all areas of the building are covered and within sufficient viewing or hearing distance should your smoke detector detect any smoke.

Additionally, you should also think about the status of those residing in the building. If deaf people or those with hearing impairments live or are often found within the property then you’ll need to think about connecting up visual beacons to compensate for those unable to hear the sounders.

If everyone’s hearing is normal then just go on the deepest sleeper in the household, your alarm sounder needs to be loud enough to wake up the strongest of Zzzz’s.


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Many smoke detectors use a push button to activate the sound. However, JUST because the sound works doesn’t go to say that the detection sensor is tickety-boo.

Some models require specific testing equipment to make sure the device is alive whereas most use universal equipment to carry out smoke alarm testing. Solo testing equipment can ensure that your smoke detectors are working correctly by encompassing the device and deploying fake concentrated smoke into the face of the smoke alarm.

Once the smoke is safely deployed only time will tell whether your smoke detector is working efficiently or not. You can also check the detection range by using specially designed aerosol cans which spray out smoke.


four logoIf it doesn’t work? Don’t panic, you’ve spotted the potential danger, now it’s time to nip it in the bud. You shouldn’t dismiss the credentials of your smoke alarm just yet, there are a few things you need to tweak and check to fully make sure that your smoke alarm is destined for the bin.

First off is the smoke detector batteries, double check they are fitted in correctly and +/- are situated where they need to be. If they have been inserted correctly then try and swap them with identical battery models found inside a remote control or other battery powered electronics. Odds on the fresh batteries will do the job and you simply need to buy some new replacements.

If swapping the batteries over didn’t work then you’ll need to clean the smoke detector. The majority of smoke alarms use a twist & lock or screw fitted enclosure, simply take off the smoke alarm cover and (I know it sounds weird) but gently hoover up all the dust and debris found within the alarm by using a hand held vacuum cleaner, this will hopefully suck up any bits which may have been blocking or interrupting the smoke detection sensor.

If both the vacuum and battery swap didn’t work then I’m sorry my friend, you may have to buy a new smoke alarm!

Five LogoProfessional advice states that you should try and test your smoke alarms once a week or at least once a month. If you consider yourself forgetful or your weekly schedule is often so busy you may forget your testing why not set up reminders. You can leave reminder notes on the fridge or have a weekly ticking off system in able to clearly see if your smoke alarms have been tested that week.

It’s hard to keep on top of things you rarely ever use but smoke alarm testing should become a priority if it isn’t already. Getting into the habit of checking your smoke alarms every week will see you securing a much safer place to work or live. It really doesn’t take that long either, you can usually complete your smoke alarm testing in under one minute.

six logoIf you are dubious over the integrity of your fire alarm or you categorically know that it needs replacing try and buy from a reliable brand name. Having a smoke alarm made by a leading fire safety brand will give you added confidence the device will perform in your time of need.

Direct Trade Supplies feature a some of the very best fire safety brands in the business, these include the likes of Apollo, C-Tec, Fike and Hochiki. Each manufacturer specialises in fire safety products, boasting years of experience, innovation and development. When you shop with us you are guaranteed to be receive a fully audited piece of fire safety equipment; built to perform and to carry out the job you need.


Things To Remember:

– Most conventional smoke alarms have a life span of ten years. After ten years it’s advised to replace your smoke alarm with a brand new one. Obviously over this ten year period the batteries will need changing, that’s if you don’t have a lithium ten year battery.

– Never decorate your smoke alarm by painting over or covering in stickers because this can cause disruption with the sensor and impair function.

– Do not use candle smoke, incense or regular deodorant sprays to test whether your smoke alarm is working. Candle smoke can cause waxy and oily particles which may contaminate the alarm and disrupt the sensor.

– If you’ve recently moved into a new home you should take the smoke alarm off the wall and check for any manufacturer dates. When you find the production date you will need to calculate whether it’s been used for over 10 years. If it’s over this ten year period then it’s too old and you’ll need to replace it with a new smoke alarm.

– Remember that a smoke alarm may sound the alarm minutes after a fire has ignited because smoke is usually detected a little while after a fire starts. So in order to act as efficiently as possible you’ll need to be fast in evacuating everyone out of the building. You can discuss fire exit plans with all household or office members so if a fire did start you’ll know exactly how to recreate.

– Testing the sounder by pushing the button will ONLY test battery power not the actual detection sensor.

– You may want to wear ear protection whilst testing your smoke alarms. Being directly underneath or beside a smoke alarm whilst it’s alarm is going off can be very loud.

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