Breathing in toxic smoke is often the cause of fire-related deaths. While 9 out of 10 homes have a smoke alarm, many of those alarms are either missing batteries, or do not work. Having working home smoke alarms can give you the time you need to escape a dangerous situation.
- Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, including your basement. Place them near sleeping areas, and inside each bedroom.
- Smoke rises, so be sure to install smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings. Ceiling-mounted alarms should be at least 4 inches away from the nearest wall; wall-mounted alarms should be installed 4 to 12 inches away from the ceiling.
- Look for smoke alarms that are connected to each other, either by wire or by wireless signal, so when one alarm sounds, the others do too.
- Use long-life smoke alarms with lithium-powered batteries and hush buttons. Smoke alarms with 10-year batteries and a sprinkler system provide the most protection if a fire should start.
- Test your smoke alarm once a month. This will not only ensure that it’s working properly, but will help familiarize children with it, and remind them of the sound.
- Replace the batteries of each smoke alarm once a year. If your alarm comes with a 10-year battery, you won’t have to change the battery each year, but you still need to test it every month.
- Smoke alarms do expire. Install a new one every 10 years, or as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Never unplug the smoke alarm or remove the batteries. If you hear the “chirp” that warns of a low battery, replace it immediately.
- Keep your smoke alarms clean by vacuuming them.
- Photoelectric smoke alarms respond faster to slow-burning fires that tend to smolder and produce large amounts of smoke (i.e., fires caused by cigarettes, fireplace embers and electrical shorts).
- Ionization smoke alarms respond more quickly to fast-flaming fires that ignite quickly with larger flames, but produce less smoke (i.e., fires caused by gasoline or other flammable liquids, newspapers, cleaning products and cooking grease).
- It’s recommended by the US Fire Administration that you have both types installed, since you never know which type of fire might start in your home.
- Families with a fire sprinkler system and working smoke alarms decrease their risk of death in a fire by 83% when compared to families with neither.
- Fire sprinklers are activated by heat, not smoke (so smoke alarms are still very important). This way, only sprinklers near the fire will go off.
- If you are buying a new home or even just renovating, consider adding a fire sprinkler system. Be sure to use a trained contractor who will follow National Fire Protection Association codes and standards to install your system.
Working smoke alarms reduce your chance of dying in a home fire by 50%.
- Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital
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