Ask any Briton what a smoke alarm is and they will probably reply that it is the thing that tells them when their toast is ready, or when their partner has burnt the dinner once again. These small plastic gadgets that have become almost a standard in our homes are often seen as a source of amusement or irritation, but it only takes a look through the local newspaper or the occasional horror story that makes the national news for us to see their importance.
The smoke alarm is the first line of defence in any home when it comes to safety in the home. Whether you live in a flat or a house you should have at least one alarm to notify you before a fire really gets going. The more you have the better the chance that you and your family have of both getting out alive and minimising damage to your home.
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You don’t want to place the alarm close to your kitchen, but any sub-£20 gadget that can pick up your burning toast will certainly inform you about a growing fire in your home. Your local Fire Brigade will usually be able to help you with advice, be it in person or via their website. But a security specialist, electrician or general builder should also be able to recommend a good alarm and advise you on fitting an alarm that runs from the mains or one that simply runs from a 9-volt battery. Businesses are also realising that smoke alarms could be more beautiful, with Nest creating a designer model.
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Many smoke alarms now come with an integral carbon monoxide alarm, which can also help to save your life. Known as an invisible killer, carbon monoxide can build up if you have a faulty boiler or other gas appliance that is not burning fuel correctly.
These appliances can be spotted as they will burn with an orange rather than a blue flame, but a detector will warn you well before your body does. CO poisoning usually results in headaches and tiredness, but it will eventually end in unconsciousness, brain damage and even death. Carbon monoxide detectors can be purchased separately and you should definitely invest in one. Even if you have your gas boiler checked on a regular basis these alarms will spot a problem before it becomes an issue.
For a real belt and braces approach to safety in the home you can install a heat-sensing fire/smoke alarm, which may detect a heat build up before a fire gets underway and smoke is emitted. Optical alarms are also available, which use light detection (in the same way that burglar alarms do) to notice a build-up of smoke or fire. You should consult an expert before having these kinds of alarms installed, as they will not work in all domestic set-ups and you may be spending more than you need when standard smoke alarms will be sufficient.
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Perhaps even more important than smoke, fire and CO alarms in your home is just being safe in the first place. Having your boiler checked regularly and having your electrics serviced if they are old or if you notice any recurring problems is both sensible and vital to safety in the home in the long-term.
We all know not to overload sockets and extension cables, but we should also keep an eye on the type of appliances and cables that we buy. When it comes to electrical safety you should trust named brands and be wary of anything that seems too cheap to be true. This is especially true of phone chargers, which are items we often leave on when we are sleeping. Cheap phone chargers are responsible for many house fires, so be sure to buy the real thing, from the people who manufactured your mobile or smartphone. Better to spend an extra £5 and be safe than to skimp on cost and safety, thus putting yourself and your family at risk.
For help or advice ensuring that your home is safe, speak to a specialist. Post your job on Rated People to receive quotes from security specialists or electricians.