Because fire can grow and spread so quickly, having working smoke alarms in your home can mean the difference between life and death. Once the alarm is activated you may have only a very few minutes to escape. Smoke alarms are the most effective early warning devices available. Just having a smoke alarm in you home cuts your chance of dying in a fire nearly in half.
Installing Smoke Alarms Correctly
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Make sure there is an alarm in or near every sleeping area.
- Mount the smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings, remember smoke rises. Ceiling mounted alarms should be installed at least four inches away from the nearest wall. Wall mounted alarms should be installed four to twelve inches from the ceiling.
- If you have ceilings that are pitched, install the alarm near the ceilings highest point.
- Don’t install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.
- Hard wired smoke alarms operate on your household electrical current. They can be interconnected so that every alarm sounds regardless of the fire’s location. This is an advantage in early warning, because it gives occupants extra time to escape if they are in one part of the home an the fire breaks out in another part. Alarms that are hard wired should have battery backups in case of a power outage, and should be installed by a qualified electrician.
- Don’t paint your smoke alarms, paint, stickers, and other decorations could keep them from working properly
Keep Your Alarms Working
- Test your smoke alarms at least once a month, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm at least once a year, or as soon as the alarm “chirps,” warning that the battery is low. A helpful hint is to schedule your battery replacements for the same day you change your clock from daylight to standard time in the fall.
- Never borrow a battery from a smoke alarm. Smoke alarms can’t warn you of a fire if their batteries are missing or have been disconnected.
- Don’t disable smoke alarms even temporarily – you may forget to replace the battery. If your smoke alarm is sounding “nuisance alarms”, it may need dusting or vacuuming. If that doesn’t work try relocating it further away from kitchens and bathrooms, where cooking fumes and steam can cause the alarm to sound.
- Regularly vacuuming or dusting your smoke alarms following manufacturer’s instructions can help keep it working properly.
- Smoke alarms don’t last forever. Replace your smoke alarms once every ten years.
- Make sure everyone in your home can identify and awaken to the sound of the alarm.
- Plan regular fire drills at least twice a year to ensure that everyone knows exactly what to do when the smoke alarm sounds. Hold a drill at night to make sure that sleeping family members awaken to the sound of the alarm.
- If you are building a new home or remodeling your existing home, consider installing an automatic home fire sprinkler system. Sprinklers and smoke alarms together can cut your risk of dying in a home fire 82 percent relative to having neither.