Friday, May 11, 2012

FireAngel Smoke Alarm: the correspondence

A few days I posted a note indicating that in trying to change the battery on my FireAngel smoke alarm I ended up breaking it. This was because the device gave no clue as to how to remove it from the ceiling.

Yesterday I received out of the blue an email from FireAngel and here is what it said.

"Hello Nigel,

I’m sorry to hear of your frustration with trying to replace the battery in your FireAngel smoke alarm.

As I’m sure you can appreciate, in a battery-operated device, it’s essential that people are alerted when the battery needs changing. Failure to do so could have serious consequences – even fatal – in the event of a fire. Replacing the batteries should be a quick and simple process, with a push and twist action to remove the cover.

If you no longer have the instructions, our customer services team is always on hand to talk you through the simple steps to replace batteries or if you need any other advice on how/where to place a new alarm. You can contact the Technical Support Helpdesk on: 0800 141 2561 or email

We will send out two new smoke alarms to you – one for you and your mother – and I’ve arranged for one of our customer services team to contact you to talk through their installation. Your local fire and rescue service will also be happy to supply and fit an alarm for you free of charge.


Jane Duncan
Head of PR

Sprue Safety Products Ltd.
Vanguard Centre
Sir William Lyons Road
Coventry CV4 7EZ UK

It's always interesting to see a company which has introduced a process to monitor social media and produce something like "rapid rebuttals" but Jane's standard text has completely ignored the central issue: something I felt impelled to point out to her in my reply.
Thanks, Jane.

Good to see you're monitoring social media. The most important point in my post was that there were no instructions on the device visible to the user indicating how to get the alarm off the ceiling so as to change the battery. This is a quite shocking design flaw because the time between battery changes is so long so it's easy to forget, or to lose instructions.

For example, we have been in this house around two years, but we didn't install the smoke alarms - the previous owners did. That's why I had no idea how to get the thing off. Your design is stiff and it's not obvious that it has to be unscrewed. In the absence of a global standard, as I'm sure you're aware, unscrewing can't be assumed; my mother's alarms (not manufactured by FireAngel) slide off, for example.

So rather than offering me replacements, the message I really want to hear is that in the next redesign, FireAngel will state on the user-facing casing:

"To remove please twist anticlockwise"

in lettering which can be read in poor illumination by an old person.

I'd be grateful if you could escalate this point to your chief of design or operations as it could save lives.