Smoke Alarms Save Lives
The majority 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 alarms
sound an alarm, alerting you to a fire. By giving you time to escape, smoke alarms cut
your risk of dying in a home fire nearly in half. Smoke alarms save so many lives that
most states have laws requiring them in private homes.
Choosing an Alarm
Be sure that the smoke
alarms you buy carry the mark of an independent testing laboratory.
Several types of alarms are
available. Some run on batteries; others run on household current. Some detect smoke using
an "ionization" sensor; others use a "photoelectric" detection system.
All approved smoke alarms, regardless of type, will offer adequate protection provided
they are installed and maintained properly.
Is One Enough?
Every home should have a
smoke alarm outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the
basement. The National Fire Alarm Code, developed by the National Fire Protection
Association (NFPA), requires a smoke alarm in each sleeping room for new constructon. On
floors without bedrooms, alarms 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 alarms' alarms. If any residents are hearing impaired or sleep
with bedroom doors closed, install additional alarms inside sleeping areas. There are
special smoke alarms for the hearing impaired; these flash a light in addition to sounding
an audible alarm.
For extra protection, the NFPA
suggests installing alarms in dining rooms, furnace rooms, utility rooms, and hallways.
Smoke alarms 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 alarm's operation.
Where to Install
Because smoke rises, mount
alarms high on a wall or on the ceiling. Wall-mounted units should be mounted so that the
top of the alarm is 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 centimeters) from the ceiling. A
ceiling-mounted alarm should be attached at least 4 inches (10 centimeters) from the
nearest wall. In a room with a pitched ceiling, mount the alarm at or near the ceiling's
In stairways with no doors at the
top or bottom, position smoke alarms anywhere in the path of smoke moving up the stairs.
Always position smoke alarms at the bottom of closed stairways, such as those leading from
the basement. Dead air trapped near the door at the top of a stairway could prevent smoke
from reaching a alarm located at the top.
Don't install a smoke alarm too
near a window, door, or forced-air register where drafts could interfere with the alarm's
Most battery-powered smoke
alarms and alarms that plug into wall outlets can be installed using only a drill and a
screwdriver by following the manufacturer's instructions. Plug-in alarms must have
restraining devices so they cannot be unplugged by accident. Alarms can also be hard-wired
into a building's electrical system. Hard-wired alarms should be installed by a qualified
electrician. Never connect a smoke alarm to a circuit that can be turned off from a wall
Cooking vapors and steam
sometimes set off a smoke alarm. To correct this, try moving the alarm away from the
kitchen or bathroom, or install an exhaust fan. Cleaning your alarm regularly, according
to manufacturer's instructions, may also help.
If "nuisance alarms"
persist, do not disable the alarm. Replace it.
Remember: Only a functioning smoke alarm can protect you. Never disable
a alarm by "borrowing" its battery for another use.
· Following manufacturer's instructions, test all your smoke alarms
monthly, and install new batteries at least once a year - when you set
the clocks back in the fall, for example, or when a alarm is
"chirping" to indicate that the battery is low.
· Clean your
smoke alarms using a vacuum cleaner without removing the alarm's cover.
paint any part of a smoke alarm.
· Smoke alarms don't last forever. Replace any smoke alarm that is more
than 10 years old.
sure everyone in your household is familiar with the sound of the
· Plan escape routes. Know at least two ways out of each room. Agree on
a meeting place outside your home where all residents will gather after
they escape. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
· Remove 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 bars should be
equipped with quick-release devices, and everyone in the household
should know how to use them.
· When an alarm sounds, leave immediately. Go directly to your meeting
place, and call the fire department from a neighbor's phone or portable
· Once you're out, stay out. Never go back inside a burning building.