This week is National Fire Prevention Week! We will be focusing on fire alarms today, since installing fire alarms properly is one of the most effective ways to reduce death and injury from fire. In modern houses, fires are more likely to spread faster than ever, since furniture is now made out of largely synthetic rather than natural materials. Smoke detection needs and regulations have changed over the years, so it’s important to recognize that an older building or home may no longer meet minimum requirements for fire safety. During a fire, it’s usually the smoke and toxins in the air created by the fire that kills, not the fire itself. Every second counts, and catching the fire as early as possible is key to saving the lives within the home. Taking proactive steps to ensure your fire detection system is up to date, functioning properly, and installed in the most strategic locations improves the chances that the fire will be detected early enough to save your property and its inhabitants.

These tips will help you recognize areas of improvement in your home system and day to day practices.

Installation and Location

  • There needs to be one fire alarm inside each bedroom as well as outside each sleeping area.
  • Every level of the house, including the basement, needs to have at least one alarm.
  • Make sure there aren’t any vents, doors, or windows near the fire alarm, since drafts can interfere with their effectiveness.
  • Avoid kitchens, bathrooms, laundries, and garages. Kitchens are serious fire hazards, but the particles can cause many false alarms. Put one just outside the kitchen.

Don’ts

  • Don’t paint your smoke alarms or decorate them in any way. It could interfere with the sensors.
  • Take batteries out without replacing them. If your alarm is beeping incessantly, it is probably low on batteries—just change them out. If it’s still beeping, look at your manufacturer’s guide for troubleshooting help.
  • Never disconnect an alarm without reconnecting it soon afterwards.

Good Practices

  • Test your smoke alarm every month by simply pressing the test button. It’s a quick and easy way to check in on your equipment to make sure it works.
  • Talk with your family about plans of escape and how to respond to a sounding alarm at different times of the day and year.
  • Keep spare batteries on hand so that they can be replaced as soon as the low battery fire alarm beeping starts.

Stay safe this week and double check all of your alarms. While simply having smoke alarms is very useful, since it alerts everyone within hearing distance of the alarm of a danger, monitored fire alarms alert you no matter where you are (or local authorities if you are not available). This protects pets and family members who are either incapable of hearing the alarm or getting to safety on their own.