Fire Safety

Make Sure Your Smoke Alarms Are Meeting British Standards

Smoke alarm ownership has risen from just 8% of the UK population in 1988, to approximately 92% in 2014/15 – a key influence in the decreasing number of fire incidents attended by the fire and rescue service (FRS).  However, it is important to note that only working alarms can save lives. It is therefore fundamental that alarms are installed correctly, and regularly checked.

With regards to rental properties, it is a landlord’s responsibility to ensure that their tenants are safe – whether this be in terms of fire safety, or gas and electrical safety. This involves working in accordance with changes to landlord letting legislation (e.g. Law and Housing Acts) and updates to standards. These work to ensure the highest level of safety within rental accommodation; hence why landlords should make it their priority to ensure they are compliant.

Within the property and fire safety sector, the European (EU)/ British Standards (BS) represent a fundamental level of ‘know-how’ for landlord reference. They both simplify and clarify the contractual conditions, providing essential guidelines for industry officials to follow. With this in mind, here are some of the key standards to consider for fire safety.

For information on meeting British Standard 5839-6: 2013 and Building Regulations, please see Ian Ballinger’s overview here:

Product standards

When testing the technicalities of a smoke alarm product, it is fundamental to use third party accredited test houses such as BSI, LPCB, Intertek.

Where smoke or heat alarms are required to be installed under the Building Regulations, they should be mains-powered and conform to the following:

In order to detect carbon monoxide, and so prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in the home, the fire Building Regulations recommend the use of CO alarms. These should conform to the following:

  • EN50291-1:2010 for CO alarms (EN50291-2:2010 for CO in recreational vehicles and boats)

Furthermore, for specification for alarms for deaf or those with hearing impairments:

Installation standards

Each member state in the EU has their own alarm installation guidelines. In the UK, fire protection in new dwellings is controlled by the Building Regulations. However, for England and Wales, these only specify a Category LD3 system as the basic requirement – one which offers a minimum level of protection in circulation spaces.

As stated BS 5839-6:2013, “a Category LD3 system cannot be expected, with any degree of reliability, to protect people who might be involved with the fire at ignition or in its early stages.” It is therefore best practice to to install to Category LD2 system, which is specified as the minimum level of protection in the Building Regs for Scotland and Northern Ireland. England and Wales are therefore expected to follow suit when they are next revised.

The categories of system are as follows:

LD1 – An alarm system is installed throughout the dwelling, with detectors in all areas where a fire may start (excluding toilets, bathrooms and shower rooms), and in circulation spaces that form part of an escape route.

LD2 – Detectors are installed in all rooms/areas that present a high risk to occupants (e.g. kitchens and living rooms), and in all circulation spaces that form part of an escape route.

LD3 – A system is installed with detectors in all circulation spaces that form part of the escape route.

Covering social and private homes, and HMOs, the BS 5839-6:2013 (also known as BS 5839: Pt. 6) provides a best practice guide for installing fire protection in new, material altered and existing properties.  Based on a premises’ risk assessment, it is integral in installations as it defines the grading of system and level of detection needed. Grades range from Grade F to Grade A, whereby – generally speaking- the greater the fire risk, the higher the Grade required, and so the installation of an increasing complex fire safety system.

For more information, please see our blog post on the different types of fire alarms and where to install them.


It is paramount that fire safety products are third party accredited and tested/certified to the latest European and British Standards. This ultimately ensures they are safe and reliable to use. Symbols that demonstrate this include the BSI kitemark symbol and the CE Mark, which shows that products meets European safety standards.

When implementing fire safety products and systems, the fire Building Regulations and BS5839-6 are key documents to refer to. They provide guidance specific to the type of property, and the level of protection required.

For more useful links/resources useful to the social housing sector, please see our social housing toolkit

For more information on fire safety systems and standards, please download our free eBook!