Smoke alarms are vital to the safety of any household. Here are 3 essential questions to ask when it comes to your smoke alarm to help you stay safe.
Until very recently our home had only one smoke alarm and it was pretty darn old. We did change the batteries periodically and pressed the test button sometimes so we thought we were all set. We were very wrong!
If your smoke alarms are over 10 years old it’s time for an upgrade. Here are a few more important things you need to know:
1. “How do I choose a smoke alarm?”
There are two main types of smoke alarms – Photoelectric which really does detect smoke before fire and warns mostly about smoldering fires and Ionization which detects faster burning fires already fully engaged. Some companies offer a combination alarm which detects both kinds of fires. If you cannot find this combination alarm, install a few of each kind to offer you maximum protection.
If anyone in your home is hard of hearing special alarms are available for them. These alarms usually have flashing lights and can be set up to shake the bed or chair to alert of a fire.
There’s no need to spend a ton of money on alarms but make sure to buy them from a reputable home store or specialized alarm company.
2. “Where do I install my smoke alarms?”
You probably don’t have as many smoke alarms as you should – it is highly recommended that smoke alarms be installed in hallways outside of every sleeping area and on every floor. It’s also a good idea to install alarms in the basement and attic. If your home is very large you may want to add a few more in halls and extra rooms. Space the alarms out so your whole home is covered.
When installing alarms in the kitchen keep them away from the stove and other areas that may cause a false alarm – even boiling a kettle near a smoke alarm can cause it to go off accidentally.
Ceilings and upper walls are generally the most effective places to install alarms. It’s best to use interconnecting alarms so if one goes off they all go off and the whole house will be alerted.
Follow the manufacturer instructions carefully to make sure the alarms are installed and placed to work at their maximum ability.
3. “How do I test my smoke alarm?”
As I mentioned before smoke alarms should be completely replaced at least once every 10 years but their batteries need to be changed twice a year. Once a month take a few minutes to walk around your home and press all the test buttons to check that they are all still alert and ready to go.
At least seasonally use your vacuum attachment to remove any dirt or dust built up in the alarm – you’d be surprised how dusty they can get hanging out up there.
If you hear the telltale ‘chirping’ warning of a low battery in your alarm do not be tempted to simply roll the batteries around to buy you a few more weeks or months. I know we’ve all done this with remote controls but unlike your remote smoke alarms can mean life or death so replace those batteries ASAP!
Now is the time
NOW is the time to make sure your home is properly equipped with smoke alarms! This is also a great time to give your family a crash course in fire safety – short courses or pamphlets are usually available at local fire halls or online. Plan your escape routes and install and learn to properly use fire extinguishers.