London Fire Brigade

Smoke alarms do save lives

19 April 2010

Firefighter Ben advises a Londoner on where to fit a smoke alarmSix out of ten people who died in fires in last year had no smoke alarm fitted in their home, according to new figures released by London Fire Brigade. The statistics also show that over half of the people who were injured by fires in the home last year didn’t have this simple life saving device either.

London Fire Brigade is warning Londoners that they are risking their lives by not ensuring their home has a working smoke alarm. Andy Hickmott, Community Fire Safety Assistant Commissioner, said: “It’s simply not acceptable that there are still Londoners who don’t have smoke alarms in their homes. They only cost about £5 and could save your life if a fire breaks out”.

“There is nothing more devastating for firefighters than to find out that someone has died or been seriously injured because a fire broke out as they slept. Smoke and fumes won’t wake you up. It’s exactly the opposite as a few breaths of smoke can cause you to lose consciousness. Don’t let this happen to you or your family when a smoke alarm from your local supermarket or DIY store could prevent it.”

Youtube video

To coincide with the release of the statistics, the Brigade has also launched a new YouTube video which highlights the importance of having a working smoke alarm.

In the YouTube video firefighter, Ben Yong, from Kensington Fire Station, says: “I always thought if had a fire in my house I’d know about it and get out straight away – the reality is it only takes a couple of breaths of smoke and you’ll probably pass out”. He goes on to say: “Having a working smoke alarm allows you that vital, precious time to get out in one piece”.

In the YouTube video firefighter, Ben Yong, carries out a home fire safety visit, and advises a Londoner about how and where to fit a smoke alarm. London’s firefighters carry out thousands of free home fire safety visits every year, where firefighters visit people’s homes to help them spot any potential fire hazards and show them what to do to reduce or prevent the risk of fire. Firefighters aim to prioritise these visits in order to carry them out at the homes of the capital’s most vulnerable people, including older or disabled people, or those with substance misuse problems. If this reflects you or someone you know, for further information on home fire safety visits, you can call the Brigade for free on 08000 28 44 28. You can also visit for further information.

London Fire Brigade’s advice on smoke alarms

  • Choose a smoke alarm that complies with the British Standard (BS EN 14604:2005) and carries the British Standard Kitemark or LPCB ‘Horseshoe’ mark.
  • Always put smoke alarms where you will be able to hear them throughout the home, particularly when you are asleep or when doors are closed. 
  • If your home has only one level, fit the alarm between the living area and bedrooms.  If your home has more than one level fit one alarm at the bottom of the staircase and further alarms on each landing. 
  • Fit smoke alarms on the ceiling, as near as possible to the centre of the room, hallway or landing. The smoke alarm should be at least 30cm (12 inches) away from any wall or light fitting. 
  • Make sure you can reach your smoke alarm easily to test it each week – avoid fitting it directly over a staircase. 
  • Follow the manufacturers' instructions on how to fit your smoke alarm and change the battery.
  • Test your smoke alarm every week and change the battery every year (unless it’s a ten year alarm).

Where not to fit your smoke alarm

  • Don’t fit your smoke alarm in or near to the kitchen or bathroom as it could be set off accidentally by cooking fumes and steam.
  • Don’t fit your smoke alarm in a garage where it could be set off accidentally by exhaust fumes.
  • Don’t fit your smoke alarm on damp or dusty surfaces or false ceilings as there is a risk it will fall down.

There are special smoke alarms available for people who are hard of hearing, which set off a vibrating pad or flashing light.

Notes to editors:

To interview a Brigade spokesperson about the importance of smoke alarms, call the press office on 020 8536 5922.

For more information on smoke alarms, go to

Key London statistics

Last year (2009), 47 people died in accidental fires in the home. In nearly 60% of these fires (58%) no smoke alarm was fitted.

In the past three years:

There were 20,633 fires in the homes of Londoners

  • 133 people died in fires in the home
  • 2,750 people were injured in fires in the home
  • 650 people were rescued by firefighters from home fires