Smoke detectors are a homeowners first line of defense against a fire. Studies have clearly shown that smoke detectors do save lives by providing an early warning to evacuate your family and call for help. More than 50% of fatal residential fires take place at night, between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am and most of these occur between 2 and 4 when people are sleeping. If a fire starts while your family is asleep the smoke detectors will wake you up. They are clearly the difference between life and death in fire emergencies!
There are three main steps involved in protection your family and property by using smoke detectors:
1. Purchasing the Smoke Detector
There are numerous brands and styles of smoke detectors on the market today. Most brands are comparable in price and performance while some have special features like remote test capability and temporary shutoff buttons. The important thing to look for when purchasing a detector is that it has been tested by a nationally recognized laboratory. Such as a UL marking with mean it has been tested by Underwriters Laboratories, a nationally recognized agency.
How many smoke detectors you need to purchase is based on the size of your house and will be covered in the placement section next.
2. Installing the Smoke Detector
Position smoke detectors on the ceiling just outside each bedroom and in the escape routes of your home. If you have a multilevel home, install a detector on every floor. The average home should have a minimum of 4 detectors. Remember each detector dramatically increases your chance of surviving a fire.
For example we will use a common three story home with three bedrooms and a basement. For this home we will be installing 6 smoke detectors. Three of the detectors will be installed outside each of the three bedrooms, this of course would depend on how close the bedrooms are to each other in your home. One detector will go near the top of the cellar steps, do not install at the very top as this may be a dead air space in your home and the smoke might not reach that level before coming under the door and into the home. The fifth detector will go on the stairwell leading to the attic, we did not install this one on the attic ceiling for two reasons. Number one it would be difficult to hear and number two the extreme heat found in many attics would cause false indications. The final detector will go in the hallway at the top of the stairwell from the first floor.
3. Maintaining/Testing the Detector
Purchasing the detector is only half the battle, maintaining the detectors operation is the rest of the project.
Batteries, batteries, batteries…most of the detectors in homes and on the market are battery operated. Numerous fatal fires occur where smoke detectors are later found in the home with missing or expired batteries. Everyone has weekly chores to do in life like taking the garbage out, checking the batteries in your smoke detectors should become part of that list on a monthly basis. It will take a matter of seconds to do and can save you a lifetime of heartache.