Installation of Smoke Detectors
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, making sure that there is an alarm outside every separate sleeping area. New homes are required to have a smoke alarm in every sleeping room and all smoke alarms must be interconnected.
Hard-wired smoke alarms operate on your household electrical current. They can be interconnected so that every alarm sounds regardless of the fire's location. This is an advantage in early warning because it gives occupants extra time to escape if they are in one part of the home and a fire breaks out in another part. Alarms that are hard-wired should have battery backups in case of a power outage and should be installed by a qualified electrician.
If you sleep with bedroom doors closed, have a qualified electrician install interconnected smoke alarms in each room so that when one alarm sounds, they all sound.
If you or someone in your home is deaf or hard of hearing, consider installing an alarm that combines flashing lights, vibration and/or sound.
Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Ceiling mounted alarms should be installed at least four inches away from the nearest wall; wall-mounted alarms should be installed four to 12 inches away from the ceiling.
If you have ceilings that are pitched, install the alarm near the ceiling's highest point.
Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.
Never paint smoke alarms. Paint, stickers, or other decorations could keep the alarms from working.
Smoke Detector Maintenance
It is vital that all smoke detectors be properly maintained and stay operational at all times.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends testing all smoke detectors once a month to make sure they are operating. Test each alarm by pushing the test button and listening for the alarm. If you can't reach, stand under the alarm and push the test button with a broom handle.
All batteries should be replaced according to the manufacturer's instructions. The NFPA recommends doing this at least once a year or when the alarm chirps, alerting you that the battery power is low. Replace the batteries immediately if you move into a new home.
Dust and cobwebs can interfere with the proper operation of a smoke detector. They may cause the detector to become less sensitive or even more sensitive in some cases. Smoke detectors should be cleaned regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions. Smoke detectors generally can be cleaned with a standard vacuum cleaner hose and attachment. Do not remove the detector's cover when cleaning.
Based on statistical performance information, it is recommended that smoke detectors be replaced every 10 years or as monthly testing indicates. Most detectors have a manufacture date listed on the back of them.
Home Escape Plans
Children as young as three years old can follow a fire escape plan they have practiced often. Yet, many families don't have detailed escape plans and those that do usually don't practice them.
Practicing a fire escape plan and fire-safe behaviors on a regular basis can mean the difference between life and death.
Draw a basic diagram of your home, marking all windows and doors, and plan two routes of escape out of each room. Consider various fire scenarios when creating your plan and develop actions for a safe escape. Plan for each member of your family, including babies and toddlers who may be unable to escape on their own.
Keep exits clear of debris and toys.
Keep your child's bedroom door closed. If a hallway fire occurs, a closed-door may hinder the smoke from overpowering your baby or toddler, giving firefighters extra time for rescue.
Teach toddlers not to hide from firefighters. Their uniforms can be scary in times of crisis. Teach children that firefighters are there to help in an emergency. Take children for a tour at your local fire station so that they can see a firefighter in full gear.
Teach your children how to crawl under the smoke to reduce smoke inhalation.
Also, teach your children how to touch closed doors to see if they are hot before opening. If so, use an alternate escape route.
Have a safe meeting place outside the home and teach children never to go back inside.
Practicing fire-safe behaviors and knowing what to do in an emergency can give your family extra seconds to escape.