Sadly, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that of all reported household fires, only about half (52%)Â of homes had a working smoke detector in the house. Additionally, in reported deaths from house fires, about 23% of homes had a smoke detector that didn’t operate or warn its occupants. About half of all fire-related deaths occur from fires reported between 11pm and 7am, meaning that very often homeowners are asleep when the fire begins. Here are some tips for keeping your family safe:
Recommended frequency for testing a smoke detector or smoke alarm:
Test every month
Change batteries every 6 months
Replace alarm system every 10 years
How to test the smoke alarm:
Most smoke alarms and detectors are fitted with a button marked “test.” Push this button once a month to ensure that the batteries are still operational. The sound will be loud so be sure to prepare the other members of your family beforehand. It’s important that everyone in the family knows the sound of the alarm and knows what to do in the event of a fire. Have someone stand far away from the alarm to ensure it can still be heard inside the house. If you push the button and no sound comes out, it’s time to replace the batteries.
How to test the smoke detector:
Once you’ve determined that the alarm is working, you’ll want to test the smoke detector. For this you can light several matches at once or you can use a product like a smoke detector test aerosol spray can (be sure to look for one that is UL listed). This spray helps determine if your detector is actually registering smoke particles. You’ll also want to test this once a month.
What type of smoke detector do you have?
There are two basic types of smoke detectors: one that uses ionization technology and one that uses photoelectric technology. Ionization detectors are more sensitive to smaller particles; you would see this with a fast flame-type of fire as in a grease fire or a highly combustable fire. Photoelectric detectors are better at registering larger particles from a smoldering fire, such as a couch or bedding fire that may take a long time to actually combust. Because you cannot predict which type of fire your may have in the home, NFPA’s National Fire Prevention Week page recommends that homes have both types of detectors.
Best locations for a smoke detector: Your local building codes have established laws and regulations for smoke detector placement but if you aren’t sure where to install your smoke detectors, here are some general guidelines. Smoke detectors should be placed on the ceiling or high on the wall if the ceiling is too difficult to reach. Place at least one detector on each level of the home. You’ll also need one in every bedroom and one in the main corridor outside the sleeping areas. Don’t place a smoke alarm too close to a stove or shower as steam may set off the alarm. Also, don’t place a detector too close to a fan or vent as the air current may remove the smoke and not set the alarm off. For a full list of specific installation placement for the home, refer to the NFPA recommended guidelines.