Don’t let Christmas be the death of you… is your smoke alarm working?

When I was four years old, before I went to bed every night, I demanded my dad check the smoke alarm at the top of the stairs was working.

Thanks to this advert, I was petrified of a fire burning down my home while I slept.

TV adverts were a whole lot scarier in the Eighties. But it did its job. We most certainly had a working smoke alarm throughout my entire childhood and beyond.

And with Christmas now SO CLOSE, the scary truth is that people are 50 per cent more likely to die in a house fire over Christmas than at any other time of year. It’s not difficult to see why. Candles? Check. Roaring fires? Check. Fairy lights. Check. Lots of booze? Check.

Which is why you NEED TO CHECK YOUR SMOKE ALARM IS WORKING. And if you don’t have one, get one, for pity’s sake.

This leads me seamlessly into a service which, if you live in Essex, you would be totally mad not to take advantage of.

I discovered it after I had a sudden panic that neither (yes we have two – I’m still not over that advert from 1987!) of our smoke alarms were working at our home in Leigh-on-Sea.

I’d managed to burn some pears (don’t ask) and they didn’t go off. With an eight-month-old baby it suddenly felt even more imperative they were working than when I was a four-year-old refusing to go to bed until I’d heard the alarm beep.

I didn’t trust the smoke alarms’ self-test beeps anymore. But what could I do?


Essex County Fire and Rescue Service run a free service where they come out and fit top-of-the-range smoke alarms – with ten-year batteries. I’ll say it again. They do this FOR FREE.

Two officers come to your home and fit the alarms exactly where they should be (turns out one of ours wasn’t working properly and the other one was actually in the wrong place) and they will also give you a rundown of any hazards in your home and things you can do to minimise the fire danger in your house. They’ll also make a note of when they visited you and in about eight years time, they’ll come back and replace your alarms again.

And all you have to do is ring them and ask. Or go online and fill in a quick form.

That’s it. I mean, seriously. Why haven’t you done this already?

Divisional Officer Neil Fenwick said: “Just three breaths of smoke can be enough to kill if a fire breaks out when you’re sleeping.

“Smoke alarms are proven life savers. They give warning at the first sign of fire, waking you and your family up and giving everyone the time they need to get safely out and call the fire service.

“Although the majority of homes in the county have working smoke alarms we want to make sure that every home has the excellent protection they offer. We will visit your home, carry out a safety inspection, give you all the advice you need and fit smoke alarms entirely free of charge.”

Still not put this at the top of your to do list? Just have a watch of that advert again…

To get your free smoke alarm(s) call Essex County Fire and Rescue Service on 0300 303 0088 or fill in the form here

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