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Smoke Alarms / Smoke Detectors

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Your smoke alarm / smoke detector is the most important safety feature in your home. The typical residential smoke alarm is a device that detects smoke and then warns people about the smoke by making a loud noise.  Every year about 3000 people die in fires in the US.  Most of those deaths happen at night and most of them die because of smoke inhalation, not because of burns. The purpose of the smoke alarm is to wake people up so they can escape to safety before they are trapped in a burning building or overpowered by the smoke and toxic fumes created by the fire.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says that, "All smoke alarms in your house should be tested once a month, and their batteries replaced annually." Many people don’t do either of these things and the biggest reason is because they just don’t remember to do it. The best way to remember to replace your battery is to have a scheduled day to do it. Replace the batteries on the first day of the year. Remember: New Year, New Battery. Some newer models of smoke alarms come with 10 year lithium batteries that don’t need replaced every year. All smoke alarms should be replaced at least every ten years.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, “between 2003-2006, more than 66 percent of home fire deaths occurred in homes without a working smoke alarm.” Some of those homes had smoke alarms but they were not working. You need to test your smoke alarms monthly to make sure they will work when there is a fire. A smoke alarm that is not working is the same as having no smoke alarm at all. Your smoke alarms will have a test button that you push to test them. Push the test button and hold it until you hear the alarm siren going off. If the smoke alarms in your house are connected then all the smoke alarms should go off when you test one of them. Make sure you test all of them individually and according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Test them on the first day of each month to help you remember. If you use a day planner or calendar, schedule it for the first of every month. It is such a simple thing to do and yet it is so important.

Smoke Detector | Smoke Alarm

Your home should have a smoke alarm in all main living areas, on every level, and in every room where people sleep. A typical home should have one for the living room/kitchen/dining area, one at the top of stairs, in hallways, and one in each bedroom. Smoke rises so you should place smoke alarms on the ceilings where the smoke will be most concentrated in a fire. If there are people in your home that cannot hear a smoke alarm, you can get special devices that use lights or vibrations to warn hearing impaired people.

It’s important to have a plan for getting everyone out of the house if there is a fire. Draw a map of your home and plan out the best routes to get everyone out. You should also have a safe place for everyone to meet at after they get out of the home. If you have children make sure you get them out first. Studies show that many young children can sleep right through the smoke alarm. You may need to wake them up before you get yourself out. Don’t assume that they are awake and getting out by themselves. It is also a good idea to hold hands so nobody gets left behind.

In summary: replace smoke alarms every 10 years, replace smoke alarm batteries every year, test smoke alarms every month. Make sure young children or hearing impaired persons are awake, and help them get out. Make a plan for getting everyone out of the house if there is a fire. Have a safe place to meet and make sure everyone is accounted for.

Check out our Quick Tips about When to change your smoke alarm batteries and How often you should test your smoke alarms.

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