of fatal home fires happen at night, when people are asleep. Contrary to popular belief, the smell of smoke may not wake a
sleeping person. The poisonous gases and smoke
produced by a fire can numb the senses and put you into a deeper
sleep. Inexpensive household smoke detectors sound an
alarm, alerting you to a fire. By giving you time to
escape, smoke detectors cut your risk of dying in a home fire
nearly in half. Smoke detectors save so many lives that
most states have laws requiring them in private homes.
Choosing a Detector
Be sure that
the smoke detectors you buy carry the label of an independent
testing laboratory. Several types of detectors are
available. Some run on batteries, other on household
current. Some detect smoke using an "ionization" sensor,
others use a "photoelectric" detection system. All
approved smoke detectors, regardless of the type, will offer
adequate protection provided they are installed and maintained
Is One Enough?
should have a smoke detector outside each sleeping area and on
every level of the home, including the basement. The
National Fire Alarm Code, developed by NFPA, requires a smoke
detector in each sleeping room for new construction. On floors without bedrooms, detectors should be installed in or
near living areas, such as dens, living rooms or family rooms. Be sure everyone sleeping in your home can hear your smoke
detectors' alarms. If any residents are hearing-impaired
or sleep with bedroom doors closed, install additional detectors
inside sleeping areas as well. There are special smoke
detectors for the hearing impaired; these flash a light in
addition to sounding an audible alarm. For extra
protection, NFPA suggests installing detectors in dining rooms,
furnace rooms, utility rooms and hallways. Smoke detectors are not recommended for kitchens, bathrooms or
garages, where cooking fumes, steam or exhaust fumes could set
off false alarms; or for attics and other unheated spaces where
humidity and temperature changes might affect a detector's
powered smoke detectors and detectors that plug into wall
outlets can be installed using only a drill and a screwdriver,
by following the manufacturer's instructions. Plug-in
detectors must have restraining devices so they cannot be
unplugged by accident. Detectors can also be hard-wired
into a building's electrical system. Hard-wired detectors
should be installed by a qualified electrician. Never
connect a smoke detector to a circuit that can be turned off by
a wall switch.
Where to Install
rises, mount detectors high on a wall or on the ceiling. Wall-mounted units should be mounted so that the top of the
detector is 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling. A
ceiling-mounted detector should be attached at least four inches
from the nearest wall, in a room with a pitched ceiling, mount
the detector at or near the ceiling's highest point. In
stairways with no doors at the top or bottom, position smoke
detectors anywhere in the path of smoke moving up the stairs. But always position smoke detectors at the bottom of closed
stairways, such as those leading to the basement, because dead
air trapped near the door at the top of a stairway could prevent
smoke from reaching a detector located at the top. Don't
install a smoke detector too near a window, door or forced-air
register where drafts could interfere with the detector's
vapors and steam sometimes set off a smoke detector. To
correct this, try moving the detector away from the kitchen or
bathroom, or install an exhaust fan. Cleaning your
detector regularly, according to the manufacturer's
instructions, may also help. If "nuisance alarms" persist,
do not disable the detector; replace the detector.
a functioning smoke detector can protect you.
a detector by "borrowing" its battery for another use.
- Following the
manufacturer's instructions, test all your smoke detectors
and install new batteries at least once a year. A good
reminder is when you
change your clocks in the spring or fall; change your
clocks, change your
Clean your smoke detectors using a vacuum cleaner without
detector's cover. Never paint a smoke detector. Smoke detectors don't
any smoke detector that is more than 10 years old.
Plan and Practice
everyone is familiar with the sound of the detector's alarm.
- Plan escape
routes. Know at least two ways out of each room. Agree
meeting place outside your home where all residents will
gather after they
escape. Practice your escape plan at least twice a
obstructions from doors and windows needed for escape.
- Make sure everyone in
the household can unlock doors and windows
quickly, even in the dark. Windows or doors with security
be equipped with quick-release devices and everyone in the
household should know how to use them.
alarm sounds, leave immediately. Go directly to your
meeting place and call the fire department.
out, stay out. Never return to a burning building