Every 82 seconds, a home fire impacts the life of an American family. By providing an early warning and the critical few extra seconds to escape, smoke alarms cut in half your family’s risk of dying in a home fire, but only if they work. Sixty-five percent of reported home fires deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
Smoke alarms that are not in proper working order can provide a false sense of security and, without periodic testing, could endanger those who rely on them.
Test your smoke alarms at least once a month following the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not test smoke alarms using a lit candle, match or lighter because of the danger of using an open flame in a residence. In addition, because smoke alarms are not designed to respond to heat or flames, the alarm may not respond to these testing methods even if it is in good working order. Most residential smoke alarms can be tested by depressing a “test” button, which activates the alarm sound. If the alarm does not respond when the “test” button is depressed, change the battery or replace the unit if necessary.
Many battery-powered smoke alarms will make an intermittent chirping sound when battery power is low. If a fresh battery does not eliminate the chirping, the cause could be age, improper location, or dust in the unit.
Clean your smoke alarms at least twice a year, using a vacuum cleaner. Dust and cobwebs can weaken the sensitivity of the alarm.
Replace smoke alarm batteries at least once a year. Pick a date that is easy to remember such as daylight saving time.
If you have nuisance alarms caused by steam from cooking, try another location or alarm model. An ionization alarm with a hush button or a photoelectric alarm should be used if the alarm is within 20 feet of a cooking appliance. Always be sure you understand why an alarm is sounding before treating the alarm as a nuisance. Smoke alarms don’t last forever. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that smoke alarms be replaced if they are performing erratically or are more than ten years old.
Doing periodic checks of the smoke alarms in your home should be routine. The time invested to check them is small compared to the benefit they can provide in saving lives.
Guest Contributor & Article Credits: Fire Marshal Alan Perkins, CFPS (Live Safe Foundation, Liaison to the Fire Department Community) – Alan’s career in the fire service spans more than 30 years. He is a Certified Fire Protection Specialist through the National Fire Protection Association and a member of numerous similar safety organizations. Alan consults with numerous fire departments throughout Ohio and in 2005 was chosen by the Ohio Department of Health as the fire service member on the Ohio School Inspection Advisory Committee. He was also awarded Ohio Fire Official of the Year in 2009 by the Ohio Building Officials Association. Alan is the Fire Marshal for the Washington Township Fire Department in Dublin, Ohio. The Washington Township Fire Department provides fire prevention, fire suppression, emergency medical services, and education and safety programs for Washington Township, which encompasses parts of Franklin, Delaware and Union Counties.
Live Safe Foundation is an Ohio based non-profit organization (501c3), devoted to making and fire and life safety education, awareness initiatives and life saving tools available on a broad basis to communities, campuses, and institutions in an effort to reduce national fire fatalities and fire losses.