When daylight-saving time ends this fall, don’t forget to check your smoke detector.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 3,000 people die each year in the United States in residential fires, with most of the fatal fires igniting at night. About two-thirds of the fire deaths occurred in homes that didn’t have a smoke detector or had one that didn’t work.
The safety commission suggests placing alarms on every level of the house, outside the sleeping area and in the bedrooms. Smoke rises so detectors should be placed on the ceiling or high on a wall, not too close to a stove or fireplace that may increase the chances of false alarms.
Use a variety of types of smoke detectors
Smoke detectors fall into two major categories: ionization and photoelectric. Ionization detectors generate a small electrical current that is disrupted when smoke enters the chamber. Photoelectric detectors have a light beam and a light receptor that trigger the alarm when interrupted. Some models, called dual-sensor alarms, use a combination of both technologies.
Fire prevention officials recommend using a mixture of ionization and photoelectric detectors. Ionization units may be able to more quickly detect tiny fire particles associated with fast-flaming fires. Photoelectric detectors are better able to detect larger, combustible particles associated with slow, smoldering fires.
Smoke detectors can be battery-powered or hard-wired into a home’s electrical system, with a battery backup. When the batteries run low, the alarm should start to chirp, signaling low battery power. Replace the batteries immediately when you hear that sound. Even if there’s no chirp, replace the batteries at least once a year as a precaution. Most fire departments recommend using the dates in the fall and spring when the time changes as a reminder to test smoke detectors and change the batteries.
Remember: smoke detectors don’t last forever. At least every 10 years, replace the alarm with a new one.
Plan your exit before you need it
A fire can be frightening and disorienting and the time for escape extremely short. Fire prevention officials suggest planning ahead. Talk through escape routes, having two routes of escape for each room. Conduct a fire drill and practice routes, making sure windows aren’t stuck and screens can be quickly removed. If the home is more than one story, having a folding escape ladder stored under a bed or in a closet can make the difference between getting out of the house or not.