Smoke Alarms - What You Need To Know
One third of smoke alarms in homes that have fires do not work because of dead or missing batteries.
Where do I put them?
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Most importantly, smoke alarms should be installed between sleeping areas. Many fatal fires begin late at night or in the early morning. For extra safety, install smoke alarms inside sleeping areas.
The best location to install smoke alarms is on the ceiling. Since smoke and many deadly gases rise, installing your smoke detector at the proper level will provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always follow the manufacturer's installation instructions.
Testing Your Smoke Alarm
- Smoke alarm batteries should be tested each month and the sensing chamber of the smoke detector should be tested yearly
- Pressing the button on the smoke alarm is the most common way to test the unit. Pressing the button indicates that the power supply (120 volt or battery) is functioning and has not gone dead
- While it is important to test the power supply, the sensing chamber must also be tested to ensure it is still active. The proper way to test a smoke alarm sensing chamber is by producing a small amount of smoke and allow the smoke to drift up into the device. The smoke alarm should go off in 20 seconds or less. This test should be done yearly when you change the batteries
- Remember kids, your parents should perform these tests with you, never do it alone
How do I keep My Smoke Alarm Working?
Change the batteries - Batteries should be changed at least once a year or when your smoke alarm gives off a faint beep every few minutes. This beep is an indication that the batteries are weak. A good time to change batteries is in the spring or fall when we change our clocks.
Keep Them Clean - Dust and debris can interfere with their operation, so vacuum over and around your smoke alarm, this will help prevent false alarms as sometimes the sensing chamber triggers when too much dust has accumulated inside.
Two different types of smoke alarms
- Ionization alarms are sensitive to fast flaming fires.
- Photoelectric alarms are sensitive to slow smoldering fires.
While both alarms are effective the photoelectric alarm is more practical near kitchen areas as they are less likely to go off while cooking.
What if the alarm goes off while I'm cooking?
Then it's doing its job. Do not disable your smoke alarm if it alarms due to cooking or other non-fire causes. Do not remove the battery to silence the alarm. Many forget to put the battery back in the alarm. Instead, clear the air by waving a towel near the smoke alarm, leaving the batteries in place. The alarm may have to be moved to a new location if it activates continually while cooking.
Newer smoke alarms have a hush feature button that can be activated silencing the alarm for a set time allowing the sensing chamber to clear.
How long will my smoke alarm last?
Smoke alarms have a life span of ten years (battery or electrical), after which they should be replaced. Like most electrical devices, smoke alarms wear out. Newer smoke alarms have a date stamped on the unit to remind you when its time to replace the unit.
Anything else I should know?
Some smoke alarms are considered to be "hard wired." This means they are connected to the household electrical system and may or may not have battery back-up. It's important to test every smoke alarm monthly. And always use new batteries when replacing old ones. Plan and practice a home escape plan.
Intermittent Beeps - If your smoke alarm intermittently beeps this is an indication that the battery is running low. It is time to change the battery.
Remember - Keep the batteries in the smoke alarm, they won't work without them.
Your smoke alarm may be powered by any of the following sources:
- 9-volt battery operation
- 120v wired in to the house
- 120v wired with a 9-volt battery backup
* Remember: Never reinstall your smoke alarm without a fresh battery!