The law on fire alarms is changing from February 2022 which means all Scottish homes will need to have interlinked alarms. Guidance for homeowners on what you need to know.
Every home in Scotland must have interlinked fire alarms by February 2022.
Interlinked means if one goes off, they all go off, so you will always hear an alarm wherever you are in your home.
We all want to keep our home and family safe, and one of the most important ways we can do this is to ensure that we have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms correctly installed at home.
What each home needs
By February 2022 every home must have:
- one smoke alarm in the living room or the room you use most
- one smoke alarm in every hallway or landing
- one heat alarm in the kitchen
All smoke and heat alarms should be mounted on the ceiling and be interlinked.
If you have a carbon-fuelled appliance – like a boiler, fire, heater or flue – in any room, you must also have a carbon monoxide detector in that room, but this does not need to be linked to the fire alarms.
Two types of alarms
You can use either sealed battery alarms or mains-wired alarms.
Both types of alarm are interlinked by radio frequency and do not need WiFi.
What the alarms must have
If you use battery alarms, they must be sealed tamper-proof units and have long-life lithium batteries, which can be up to 10 years. You may be able to fit these types of alarms yourself and they do not need an electrician.
Mains-wired alarms are cheaper but if you use them, they must be fitted by a qualified electrician and must be replaced every 10 years. You may also need to redecorate after fitting them.
If you also need a carbon monoxide alarm and it is battery-operated, it must have a sealed battery for the duration of its lifespan.
You just need to check that each alarm complies with the following standards:
- smoke alarms BS EN14604:2005
- heat alarms BS 5446-2:2003
- carbon monoxide detector British Kitemark EN 50291-1
These offer vital protection as they provide an early warning of trouble, and will alert you to a fire even if you are asleep. They should be tested regularly, but it is also essential that you and all other members of your household understand how to react should the alarm sound.
Where to put your smoke alarm
The Fire Service recommend that you install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home.
Fit smoke alarms where you can hear them if you are asleep – on an upstairs landing close to the bedrooms, or in the hallway between living and sleeping areas if your living space is on one floor. Don’t install smoke alarms in the bathroom as steam may set these off accidentally.
Fit your smoke alarm to the ceiling, as close to the centre of the room or hallway as possible. Try to keep at least 30cm away from the wall or any light fittings.
Smoke alarms should not be installed in kitchens or garages where they can be set off accidentally by steam or exhaust fumes.
Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors
These should be fitted in any home that contains a fuel burning appliance, like a boiler, and tested regularly to ensure that it is working.
What is carbon monoxide (CO)?
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, tasteless and odourless gas that can cause harmful and potentially fatal effects.
Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, such as gas. This can occur in inadequately maintained or badly fitted domestic heating appliances, such as boilers and gas fires. If your flue or chimney is blocked, CO will be unable to escape your home if produce, allowing a dangerous concentration to quickly build up.
If carbon monoxide escapes into your home it will cause symptoms that include headaches, breathlessness, drowsiness, vomiting, chest pains, dizziness, vision problems and eventually collapse and loss of consciousness – which can easily be confused with, or misdiagnosed as, flu, fatigue or food poisoning. Be aware of the symptoms and be prepared to react if you recognise them in yourself or others.
Where to install carbon monoxide (CO) detectors
It’s important to note that your carbon monoxide detector will not detect smoke – you will need a separate smoke alarm for this purpose.
Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in every room that contains a fuel burning appliance. You can install them in other rooms to ensure adequate warning is given for occupants in other areas of your home – such as in rooms where people sleep.
Install your detector at a horizontal distance of between 1 and 3m from the potential source. If this is on the ceiling, it should be at the highest point (if you have a sloped ceiling) and at least 30cm from any obstruction, such as light fixtures. If this is on the wall, it should be located approximately 15cm from the ceiling but not above any windows or doors.
It is also important to not install your CO detector in the wrong place – this could cause it go off unnecessarily, or not go off when needed. Don’t locate your alarm in the following places:
- In an enclosed space, for example in a cupboard
- Where it can be obstructed, for example by furniture
- Next to a door, window, extractor fan or air vent
- In an area where the temperature may drop below -10°C or exceed 40°C
- Where dirt and dust may block the sensor
- In a damp or humid location, for example in the bathroom or above a sink
- Within 1m of any appliance
Reducing the risk
When was the last time your boiler was serviced? Ensuring that your gas appliances are installed and regularly serviced. Landlords are legally obliged to have an annual gas safety check completed in every property they let – and should provide tenants with a copy of the certificate.
Install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home. The sensing technology in a carbon monoxide detector accurately measures the levels of CO and the time of exposure, and is designed to sound before carbon monoxide levels become threatening.