Tips on using smoke detectors

Smoke detectors are very easy to use and so affordable that it is a wonder why not every home has them. In place of an entry level fire alarm system, smoke detectors and a couple of fire extinguishers can work pretty much effectively in stopping most home fires.

About 10% or more of fires reported to the fire department each year are home fires. More revealing though, is the fact that most of the fatalities (60%) caused by fires are from home fires. Almost half of these fire fatalities occur in the tiny 4% of homes that don’t have any smoke alarms. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if the people had enough time to escape or do something about the fire.

Make sure your batteries are working. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 20% of smoke detectors or smoke alarms do not work, mostly because their batteries are either dead or missing. Change the batteries every year unless they are the long-life types., like lithium batteries.

A bad habit is to deactivate a smoke detector or remove its batteries because you find false alarms a nuisance. Leave the batteries in them and don’t resort to taking them out just because some other appliance needs them at the moment.

Choose your location carefully. Don’t install any ionization smoke detectors near the kitchen, garage, or bathroom or you’ll get many false alarms. If you live in a multi-storey house, every floor should have at least one smoke detector. The best locations for smoke detectors are on the ceiling near:

  • Outside sleeping areas
  • Tops of stairwells
  • Hallways
  • Bedrooms
  • Living rooms

Don’t install the smoke detector near any windows or doors; you don’t want smoke from external sources to interfere with its working. Don’t paint it or put anything over it.

Periodic maintenance is important. Smoke detectors do not last forever. The sensors become less sensitive over time due to dust or the diodes may fuse or short circuit. Periodic maintenance, for example when you change your clocks for daylight saving or when you do spring cleaning, is highly recommended. Vacuum your smoke detector to prevent dust from building up, and test it now and then.