Smoke Alarm Tips
How Can I Protect My Home and Family Against Fire?
Fire is a deadly threat to any household. It can strike anywhere, at any time so it is important that you and your family are prepared.
Smoke alarms are the easiest, most cost-efficient way to alert your family of a fire. The more smoke alarms you have installed in your home, the more your chances increase that you will be alerted to a fire. They also need to be positioned strategically to work effectively to alert you and your family in the case of an emergency.
I have one smoke alarm in my home. Is that enough protection against fire?
No, several smoke alarms must be installed and maintained for proper fire protection. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends smoke alarms be installed on every level of the home, inside every bedroom, and outside each sleeping area. In the basement, smoke alarms should be installed at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the next level.
Installing and maintaining smoke alarms dramatically increases your family's chances of surviving a fire. Learn what your state’s requirements and regulations are for home smoke alarm by using our interactive state legislation map.
Other Important Considerations Include:
- Mount smoke alarms in the middle of the ceiling when ceiling mounted. If that is not possible, mount detectors on the wall at least three feet away from a corner and within 12 inches from the ceiling.
- Keep smoke alarms away from drafts created by fans or air ducts. The moving air can blow smoke away from the sensor.
- Avoid placing smoke alarms too close to the kitchen stove and bathroom shower, as cooking smoke and shower steam can cause nuisance alarms. If you do install a smoke alarm in the kitchen, ensure it is at least 10 feet away from any cooking appliances to help avoid false alarms.
What Types of Smoke Alarms Are There?
There are two basic types of smoke alarms: ionization and photoelectric. Both are effective at detecting smoke, yet each has a unique detecting system.
- Ionization technology is generally more sensitive than photoelectric technology at detecting small particles that tend to be produced in greater amounts by flaming fires, which consume combustible materials rapidly and spread quickly. Sources of these fires may include paper burning in a wastebasket or a grease fire in the kitchen.
- Photoelectric technology is generally more sensitive than ionization technology at detecting large particles, which tend to be produced in greater amounts by smoldering fires and may smolder for hours before bursting into flame. Sources of these fires may include cigarettes burning in couches or bedding. Each type of detector also comes as AC-operated smoke alarms or battery-operated smoke alarms. Some AC alarms even come with a battery back-up system. Additional options can include an escape light, silencing button, or remote control mute feature.
What Should I Do If I The Smoke Alarms Sound?
NEVER IGNORE THE SOUND OF A SMOKE ALARM. If the smoke alarm is sounding, there is a reason. You and your family must be able to escape quickly and safely. Here are several safety tips your family can learn and practice to prepare for an emergency:
1. Have an escape plan. Discuss and practice your escape plans. Know two exits from any room in the house.
2. Feel if the door is hot. Always feel the door to see if it is hot before opening it to escape. If the doorknob or door is hot, do not use that exit. Use your alternate exit to escape.
3. Crawl on the floor. Smoke from a fire rises and so does the temperature. If you crawl on the floor there will be less smoke and the heat from the fire will be less severe.
4. Meet at a pre-arranged spot outside the home. If you clearly show where everyone is supposed to meet outside the home when there is a fire, it will be easier to know who is safe.
5. Call the fire department from a neighbor's home. Be prepared to give your full name and address to the operator at the other end of the line. Stay on the line until the operator has all of the information needed.
6. Never go inside a burning building. Never return inside the house for any reason. The firefighters will be there soon.
Are There Other Ways I Can Protect My Family From Fires?
The following is a fire safety checklist to lower the chances that a fire may start in your home:
- Keep the furnace in working order.
- Use a fireplace screen.
- Have proper ventilation for heaters and other small appliances.
- Do not smoke in bed.
- Use the correct size fuses.
- Don't use worn out electrical wiring or run it under rugs or out windows or doors.
- Clear away clutter, the less fuel a fire has to feed on.
Tips For Testing and Maintaining Smoke Alarms:
- The NFPA recommends testing your smoke alarms at least once a month.
- Make sure everyone in the home knows the sound of a smoke alarm and how to respond.
- Follow the user manual instructions for cleaning and maintaining smoke alarms for proper functionality.
- Smoke alarms require you to replace the battery every six months or if a low battery chirp occurs.
- Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10-years. Alarms with a 10-year sealed battery should be replaced once it exceeds its life expectancy or if a low battery chirp occurs.
- When replacing a battery, follow the user manual which includes a full list of approved batteries.