A Quick Guide to Choosing a Fire Alarm

Having a good early warning system is key to reducing the impact of a fire in your home or commercial property. But how do you know which one is right for you? Learning a little bit more about how each type works will help you make an informed choice.

Smoke Detectors

Ionisation: Detects the thin smoke from materials such as paper or wood burning. These are usually the cheapest ones, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful, as they detect the quick-flaring fires that can spread quickly.

Optical: There are a couple of different types, but the basic way they work is by triggering when a light beam inside of them is disrupted by the presence of visible, larger smoke particles created by fires that tend to smoulder slowly. These are less likely than the ionisation type of detector to react to thin smoke and cause a false alarm, such as when toast burns. They are therefore suitable for placing close to kitchens.


These are best suited to environments where some smoke and steam is a given, such as in commercial kitchens. These will only trigger when they sense an unusual or intense heat. They are only really effective over a small area, so careful installation of several detectors is needed for large or commercial kitchens.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

These types of detector are different from the ones installed into homes to check the levels of Carbon Monoxide (CO) produced by faulty gas fires or boilers. CO is also produced by deep seated, smouldering fires that would typically not otherwise set off some smoke detectors until they had reached a considerable size.

CO detectors are not much use for detecting fast-flaming fires, however. For this reason they can be combined with a smoke detector to increase the chances of different types of fire being detected. If you have multiple fire risks, or want to provide full protection for your building, there are ways of combining a CO detector with a smoke detector.

A ‘Break Glass’ Call Point

If your public building has a high volume of people moving through it, or can be considered at high risk of the types of fire that are hard to detect, you may consider installing a manual call point. The likelihood is that a person could spot a small, forming fire and raising the alarm before a detector can.

1st Attendance are always happy to pass along our expertise when it comes to preventing fires. If you’re looking to refresh your company’s fire training , call us on 0117 957 3039.

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