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Smoke alarms are an important part of keeping you and your family safe from fire. Having working smoke alarms in your home reduces your risk of dying in a fire by 50 percent! Smoke alarms save lives by providing an early warning of danger and giving you precious time to escape from fire.
Fire safety experts recommend that smoke alarms be installed on every floor of the home. In addition, smoke alarms should be installed inside every bedroom and outside of the sleeping area (in the hallway). It is also a good idea to install smoke alarms at critical points along your escape path. For example, put a smoke alarm at the bottom of a stairwell to warn you if the room below is full of smoke. Also, if you take frequent naps in a particular room that is not a bedroom, such as a sun room or family room, consider installing a smoke alarm there, too!
Types of Smoke Alarms
Smoke alarms come in two types – ionization and photoelectric. The name refers to the type of technology used to sense the smoke. Ionization alarms are better at sensing fast, flaming fires, such as cooking fires. Photoelectric alarms are best at sensing smoldering fires, such as upholstery fires. For maximum protection, you should have both types of smoke alarms in your home.
You can also buy interconnected smoke alarms. These will send a signal to each other so that when one smoke alarm goes off, they all go off. This is especially helpful if your home has more than one floor or is a larger home. It also provides peace of mind if you have family members who may need help escaping from a fire, such as small children, an elderly adult, or someone with a mobility impairment, who often spends time in another part of your home.
There are also smoke alarms available for those with a hearing impairment. These smoke alarms will flash a very bright strobe light when the alarm is activated. Another type of smoke alarm for the hearing impaired is the “shaker” alarm. This technology uses a disc or mat that you place on the seat of a chair, under a bed pillow, or on top of a mattress. The disc/mat will vibrate to alert you in the event of a fire. There are also other technologies available that include alarms with different pitches and frequencies, alarms with higher decibel sounds, and alarms with different patterns of alerts.
Finally, you should use smoke alarms that have a long life battery. This assures that your smoke alarm will always have the power it needs to protect you and your family. In New York state, a law will become effective on January 1, 2018, that will require all smoke alarms sold to have a non-removable long-life battery sealed inside the smoke alarm. These smoke alarms can be purchased NOW!
Smoke Alarm Maintenance
Smoke alarms should be tested monthly to make sure they are still working. This is as simple as pressing the TEST button with a broom handle or the end of a long cooking spoon. Test your smoke alarm the same day you regularly do something else every month and it will become a habit!
Smoke alarms also need to be cleaned to removed any dust, cobwebs, pet fur, or other buildup that may have made its way into the detection unit. This is as simple as using a hair dryer to blow air at the smoke alarm for a few seconds to dislodge the debris. You can also use the extension hose from your vacuum cleaner around the edges and surface of the smoke alarm. It only takes a few seconds to perform this routine maintenance, but it will keep your smoke alarm in good working condition and keep you and your family safe!
If a smoke alarm chirps, replace the battery immediately. If it has a sealed battery compartment, replace the entire smoke alarm. All smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years, even if they appear to still work.
Learn how a few simple safety tips can protect you and your family from a potentially devastating home fire.
Based on 2014-2018 annual averages:
Source: NFPA Applied Research
* Homes include one- and two-family homes, apartments (regardless of ownership), and manufactured housing.
Often called the invisible killer, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
CO enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light hotheadedness or headaches. High levels of CO can be fatal, causing death within minutes.
The concentration of CO, measured in parts per million (ppm) is a determining factor in the symptoms for an average, healthy adult.
Source: NFPA's Fire Protection Handbook, 20th Edition.