Everything You Should Know About Home Smoke Alarms
Several studies have found that when working smoke alarms are present, the chance of dying from a fire is cut in half.
The daylight savings time change is a great reminder to replace smoke alarm batteries in your home.
Several studies have found that when working smoke alarms are present, the chance of dying from the fire is cut in half. The smoke alarms currently in place have saved thousands of lives, but several problems exist.
- The 12% of homes that do not have alarms, account for more than half of the fires.
- It is estimated that a third of the smoke alarms in place are not working, which is often due to failure to replace a worn out battery.
- Many homes do not have the correct number of smoke alarms to adequately protect the property.
Here's how you can protect your family with smoke alarms.
How Many Alarms are Needed? Alarms should be located between any sleeping persons and the rest of the house ' outside bedrooms or sleeping areas and codes require that additional smoke alarms be located on each floor level of the home. A closed door provides protection from smoke on the other side, but will also prevent smoke from reaching a smoke alarm. This is particularly a problem in bedrooms. If you sleep with your bedroom door closed, you should add a smoke alarm in the bedroom; particularly if you smoke in the bedroom or there is a TV, air conditioner, or other major appliances in the bedroom that might start a fire. If you sleep with the bedroom door open, the alarm in the hall outside will detect a fire in the bedroom or elsewhere.
What Kind of Smoke Alarm Should You Get? There are two types of home smoke alarms available; the ion type and the photoelectric type. The ion type reacts faster to open flaming fires and is usually the least expensive. The photoelectric type reacts faster to smoldering fires and is less likely to react to cooking. Both types provide good protection and can be used without worry. If you need more than one alarm, you might get one of each. There are also multiple ways to power smoke alarms. Most operate on a battery (usually 9 volt), which should be replaced at least once a year. When the battery needs changing, the smoke alarm will begin to "chirp" every 20 seconds or so, this will persist for a month. To prevent this nuisance you should pick a special day and give your alarms new batteries once a year. Some fire safety organizations promote "change your clocks, change your batteries" when the change is made back from daylight savings time each fall. Always make sure that you use the right battery ' the required battery type is marked on the alarm near where the battery goes. Smoke alarms installed in a house may be operated from the household electrical power and not need battery replacement. This type of alarm has a "power on" light to tell you that the alarm has power. Smoke alarms are available which run on house power but also have a battery in case the main power fails. Both types of alarms need to be tested monthly and batteries should be replaced yearly just as with the battery-only operated type.
How Should it be Installed? Smoke alarms are normally installed on the ceiling or high on the wall, with the top of the alarm not closer than 4 inches nor further than 12 inches from the ceiling. Alarms should be no closer than 3 feet from supply registers of forced air heating systems (that might blow on the alarm preventing it from seeing smoke) and no closer than 3 feet from the door to a kitchen or a bathroom containing a shower (steam can set the alarm off when the door is opened).
Will You be Able to Hear Your Alarms? People with hearing impairments can get smoke alarms with bright, flashing lights or vibrating signals. To awaken you, the light needs to be over the head of the bed and should be rated at least 110 candles. Such bright lights must be powered from house power, so if it is battery operated, it is probably not bright enough to use in the bedroom.
Testing and Maintenance Smoke alarms should be tested at least once a month. All smoke alarms have a test button that you push to check out the entire alarm, including its sensitivity (how much smoke it takes to set it off). If the testing mechanism does not work properly, the alarm should be replaced immediately. Never use open flame devices to test an alarm.
Smoke alarms need no maintenance other than changing batteries (in those that have batteries) and an occasional vacuuming of dust or cobwebs. Every smoke alarm comes with a homeowner booklet, which describes how to use and take care of that particular alarm. You should read that booklet and keep it in a safe place for future reference.
What if Your Alarm "ACTS UP"? Smoke alarms are highly reliable but can sometimes be fooled by cooking or steam. If it sounds when there is not fire, it may need to be moved a few feet to a new position where it is not in the way of cooking vapors or steam. It may also have insects in it, so you should take it down and vacuum it out. If it continues to act up, simply replace it with a new alarm. They are inexpensive and can be purchased at any local hardware store.
How Long Should Your Smoke Alarm Last? Smoke alarms have a useful life of about ten years.