Everyone has smoke alarms in their home, but proper upkeep and correct usage can be the difference between life and death. Proper maintenance and placement is important for making sure you don’t have “nuisance alarms,” or smoke alarms that go off without a fire. To prevent nuisance alarms, make sure you clean the alarms according to the directions provided by the manufacturer.
Alarms should be installed at least 10-15 feet away from the kitchen range, to ensure it isn’t triggered by cooking activity, and also away from bathrooms so it doesn’t get triggered by steam. For kitchens, use photoelectric alarms, which are less sensitive to cooking activity. You also might want to choose an alarm that has a silencing feature, so nuisance alarms can be stopped quickly. Alarms should be installed in every bedroom, every level in the home, and in any outside sleeping areas.
Take care of your alarms by testing them monthly. Alarms have a test button you can press to make sure they can still be triggered. Replace alarm batteries at least once a year, if not sooner, or when they start to “chirp.” Replace alarms every 10 years, or in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. In addition, there are different types of alarms for different types of fires. Ionizations detectors respond quickly to flaming fires, while photoelectric detectors respond to smoldering flames.
For best results, apply both types of alarms in your home, since homeowners cannot predict what type of fires might start. There are also detectors that combine both types of technology.
You can also get interconnected smoke alarms, so when one alarms detects fire, it triggers all the other alarms. Newer technology is available so you do not have to use wires to have interconnected alarms. Any smoke alarms powered by house power should have back up battery power in case of a power outage.
If a fire is detected in your home, you should know how to escape. Plan an escape route ahead of time and have your family practice leaving the home during the day and night. Make sure you plan includes assisting anyone who need help, and a designated meetup place in case you get separated. It is important that no one ever re-enters the house once outside. Make an effort to practice alarm maintenance, usage, and escape route plans- your life may depend on it.