Between 2007 and 2011, 37 percent of fire deaths occurred in homes without smoke detectors, states the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Three out of five deaths in house fires occur because no smoke detectors are installed or because they aren’t working correctly. Having functioning smoke alarms in your home cuts your chances of perishing in a fire by half.
It’s quite clear: smoke detectors save lives, but only if they’re properly installed and maintained. Follow these smoke detector tips from the NFPA to keep you and your family safe.
Selecting Smoke Detectors
- Look for a brand that offers interconnected smoke alarms. This causes all the alarms to sound when a single device detects smoke somewhere in your home.
- Decide between battery-powered and hard-wired smoke detectors. Monthly testing is critical if you decide on battery-powered models. Hard-wired models come with battery backups so the device remains operational in a power outage. Monthly testing is still recommended for hard-wired smoke detectors.
- Decide between ionization and photoelectric smoke detectors. Ionization alarms are quicker at detecting flaming fires. Photoelectric smoke detectors more effectively warn against smoldering fires. It’s recommended to have both types of alarms in your home.
- Consider special alarms with strobe lights and bed shakers for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Installing Smoke Detectors
- Install one smoke alarm in each bedroom and outside each sleeping area.
- Install an alarm of every floor of your home, including the basement.
- Mount each smoke detector on the ceiling or high on the wall. Hot air carrying smoke rises above cool air, so a high placement is important for quick smoke detection.
- Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms caused by cooking. The nearest device should be at least 10 feet away from the stove.
- Replace smoke detectors every 5 years.
Maintaining Smoke Detectors
- Test each smoke detector once a month to ensure proper operation. Simply press and hold the test button for a few seconds until the siren goes off. If the sound is weak or nonexistent, replace the batteries and conduct the test again. If the siren is still malfunctioning, replace the smoke detector as soon as possible.
- Check the smoke detector to ensure thick dust or other debris isn’t blocking the grate. This can prevent the smoke detector from working even if the batteries are new.
- Replace the batteries once a year. Schedule a set time, such as when school starts or at the beginning of a new calendar year, to help you remember.
- Replace the batteries immediately if the smoke detector starts chirping. This is a signal that the batteries are low.
Reacting When a Smoke Detector Sounds
- Make a plan with your family about how to respond in case of a house fire.
- Establish a meeting place outside where everyone will gather if a smoke detector goes off. Choose a permanent spot such as a tree, mailbox or light post a safe distance from your home.
- Assign people to assist older adults, infants or family members with mobility issues to make sure everyone is taken care of in the event of a fire.
- If the smoke detector goes off, respond quickly. Stop what you’re doing and go outside to the designated meeting place. Do not reenter the home until the incident is deemed a false alarm or firefighters tell you it’s safe to do so.
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