Different ways smoke alarms can connect
Smoke alarms can interlink in a number of ways: they can be hardwired, wireless (e.g. connected via radio frequency) or part of a mixed system.
The simplest and quickest way to connect/interlink alarms is via wireless radio-frequency as this requires no destructive hardwired cabling. Not only does this reduce installation time, but it allows up to 50 alarms to be easily installed (or uninstalled) into the same meshed network.
Please see FireAngel’s “How to Learn In” blog post for a quick and simple tutorial on how to connect your smoke alarms.
Benefits of interlinking alarms
Standalone smoke alarms are limited in both the area they can monitor, and the distance their sound can travel. However, in an interlinking network of alarms, as soon as one alarm detects a problem, all the alarms sound. This warns occupants - no matter where they are in the home - to the problem and so enables a faster means of escape. Wi-Safe 2 alarms will also mimic the sound of the originating alarm - therefore if carbon monoxide is detected, or it is a fire alarm sounding, residents will know immediately. The sound heard throughout the home will be very different!
Furthermore, Wi-Safe 2 interlinking fire alarms can also be tailored to the needs of vulnerable tenants. For instance, having a low frequency sounder or strobe and vibrating pad connected within the network can provide a life-saving warning to tenants with mild to severe hearing loss.
Please see more information in our fire safety measures for adults at risk blog post.
Features of Wi-Safe 2 connected fire alarms
In addition to ease of installation and enhanced fire safety, Wi-Safe 2 smoke alarms have a number of useful features. These include:
- Easy Testing - a simple press of large central button on alarms
- Sleep Easy functionality - allows silencing of an alarm’s low battery ‘chirp’ for up to 8 hours (1-2), allowing occupant to delay action until morning.
- Smart Silence - In the event of a known false alarm, the smoke alarm can be silenced for 10 minutes (after which it will return to full sensitivity).
- Low energy usage- FireAngel Specification and SONA by FireAngel alarms have a low energy usage and running costs (less than 10% than other AC alarms).
Wi-Safe 2 products also include alarms with Multi-Sensor Thermoptek technology. This advanced technology allows smoke alarms to monitoring for more than one indication of fire (e.g. smoke and heat) and so give a faster reaction in the event of fire. This technology is fitted by 90% of the Fire and Rescue Service.
Are smoke alarms meant to connect?
Whether smoke alarms are ‘meant’ to connect (e.g. by law) is dependent on your location within UK, the type of property and your fire risk assessment.
At present, Building Regulations (that apply to new new builds, materially altered dwellings, loft conversations and certain building extensions) require the installation of interlinking alarms. However, it is important to note that Regulations for Scotland and Northern Ireland are different to those in place across England and Wales:
- Building Regulations in England and Wales (Approved Document B) stipulate a Category LD3 detection system with alarms only in circulation spaces that form part of the escape route
- For properties constructed in Scotland and Northern Ireland, however, Standards must meet Category LD2, requiring additional protection in rooms that present a high fire risk to occupants such as the kitchen and living room.
For existing properties, it is not law to fit interlinking alarms. However, it is recommended to follow British Standards BS 5839-6: 2013 (also known as BS 5839: Pt.6) as the code of practice for the planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection in domestic premises.
Specifically, BS 5839-6: 2013 recommends installing smoke alarms with a tamper-proof lithium battery back-up, and recommends installing interlinking alarms in:
- All new premises.
- All Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), other than houses with long-term lodgers and houses shared by six people or less, who are generally living in a manner similar to that of a family (e.g. houses rented by students).
- All rented maisonettes and rented two (or more) storey houses.
- All houses of three (or more) storeys.
- All sheltered housing. However it then says - “It is preferable that, in all premises (including premises other than those described above), all smoke alarms and heat alarms (if provided) are also interlinked -this advice ought to be incorporated in instructions to householders (see Clause 24)”
Advice for specifiers and housing providers
For those wishing to provide the ultimate protection for tenants, it is best practice to install interlinking alarms that connect via wireless radio frequency. The FireAngel Specification and SONA by FireAngel range can greatly reduce costs with the fastest installation and minimal disruption (see the top 5 ways it saves money here!), in addition to safeguarding against potential changes in legislation.
So, are smoke alarms meant to connect? Essentially they "should do". Legislation is dependent on whether the building is a new build or not. For example, if it’s retrofitting (or extension) then legislation requires a high level of fire safety. However, with increasing ease and availability of interlinking fire alarms, installing Multi-Sensor interlinked alarms is ultimately a great preparation for the future: they provide comprehensive protection with faster warning of fire throughout the property.
For more information, please see the “Interlink Alarms - What’s The Connection” summary.