Smoke Alarm

Smoke alarms have been mandatory in all occupied dwellings since 8 March 2015. This means that each home must be fitted with at least one autonomous device that detects smoke and triggers an alarm. By law, the smoke alarm must also bear the CE marking, which proves it complies with the European standard EN 14 604. Although failing to install a smoke alarm isn't punishable by law, it's in your best interests in order to protect your home from fire.

What is a fire alarm?

A fire alarm is a security device that detects the start of a fire and limits the risk of a fire in your home.
Ionisation chamber smoke alarms are banned and there is now only one type of smoke detection and alarm device: detectors that contain an optical smoke sensor. The way the device works is simple: a photoelectric sensor detects variations in a light signal. If it detects the presence of smoke, an audible alarm is triggered.

Although smoke alarms are sometimes connected to the power circuit in a home, most smoke detection devices are wireless and battery-powered. If the smoke alarm is fitted with an alkaline battery, the battery needs to be changed every year. Some smoke alarms have a lithium battery, which has a longer average life of 10 years. However, the battery can't be changed, so the entire device needs to be replaced. Some smoke alarms have a test button, which is pressed to check that the device works and that the alarm triggers. This is very useful in smoke alarms powered by alkaline batteries to determine when to change the battery.

Why install a smoke alarm?

  • The risk of fire in your home
Every year in France, the fire service responds to more than 280,000 calls and several hundred deaths are caused by fires. However, many potential victims can be saved if the alarm is sounded quickly. When installing a smoke alarm became mandatory in 2016, household fires fell by 4% and the number of victims also declined.

A smoke detector with a built-in alarm allows the start of a fire to be detected early, even when there are no flames, i.e. when combustion begins or if there is a smouldering fire. Because nearly 80% of deaths due to a fire are caused by toxic smoke, having a smoke alarm in the home is vital for ensuring that occupants are safe.
  • The benefits of an audible alarm
A smoke detector must have a loud audible alarm. This alarm immediately alerts the household's inhabitants to the danger, prompting them to leave the home and alert the emergency services before the fire spreads. The alarm must be loud enough to alert the occupants and be heard in every room in the home, ideally even in outbuildings. That's why it's recommended to install several smoke alarms, connected or otherwise, in large homes or those with several floors.

70% of deaths from a fire also occur at night, when the occupants of a household are sleeping. It's a common misconception that the smell of burning, smoke or heat are enough to wake up a person. A fire is also dangerous well before someone who is asleep realises what's happening, largely due to the toxic fumes it produces. The carbon monoxide in smoke also makes waking up more difficult and the oxygen in the air rapidly disappears during a fire. Only a loud audible smoke alarm can alert you in time so that you can get to safety.
  • An additional safety feature: the light warning
Some smoke alarm models are fitted with a light or vibrating signal in addition to the audible signal. This can alert even elderly or hearing-impaired persons (and even people listening to music on headphones!). Discover all our products

Installing a smoke alarm

To make sure that smoke is detected effectively and quickly, a smoke alarm needs to be positioned in the right place in the home. It needs to be installed in the centre of the home, usually in a corridor, on the ceiling or high up on a wall if it can't be installed on the ceiling. Position the smoke alarm nearby the main bedroom so it can be heard at night and avoid installing it nearby the bathroom or kitchen. The steam created by washing and cooking and the smoke from cooking could accidentally trigger the alarm.

If the home has several floors or its surface area exceeds 60 m2, it's best to install several smoke alarms - one on each floor or in each area - to make sure the audible signal can be heard wherever you are in the home. Packs containing several smoke alarms can also be purchased. These can be connected to each other or operate independently and can be used to cover large surface areas, as well as for installing additional smoke alarms in a loft or cellar.

By law, the owner of a dwelling is responsible for the installation of a smoke alarm. If a home is rented, the detector and audible alarm must be checked to make sure they are working properly when the check-in inventory takes place. Afterwards, the tenant is responsible for maintaining the device, notably for checking that it works and changing the battery or batteries if necessary. If you take out or renew a home insurance policy, your insurer may also ask you to declare that the insured home is fitted with a smoke alarm.

Choosing the right smoke alarm

When buying a smoke alarm, make sure you choose a device that complies with standards, as required by law: purchase an alarm with the CE marking, which guarantees that it meets the European standard EN 14604. Smoke alarms are available in a range of prices and choosing isn't always easy. The price of an alarm is determined by the quality of the components and the options available. The type of battery used is also a factor: an alarm with a lithium battery is more expensive, but unlike alkaline batteries you won't have to change the batteries every year.

The range of fire detection devices available also includes smart smoke alarms. A smart smoke alarm is a wireless device that, like a standard smoke alarm, triggers an alert when it detects smoke. As well as producing an audible signal, a smart smoke alarm notifies you of the potential danger by sending an alert to your smartphone. The device is connected to an app, which immediately sends you and chosen family members an alert wherever you are.

This allows you to take action even if you're away from home and alert the emergency services remotely. The Netatmo Smart Smoke Alarm also has an automatic test feature and notifies you when the alarm needs to be replaced.

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