Smoke Detector Safely During the Holidays

The holidays symbolize a time of joy and giving. In that thread of thought, you should be giving your first line of defense against fires your undivided attention during the holiday season.

287385862_cc8edfa0ecThat’s right, smoke detectors are pieces of fire safety equipment every house should have. But it’s not enough to simply install them. You have to regularly test and maintain your smoke detectors to ensure they are operating properly day in and day out. The holidays are the perfect time to do so because lights, dry foliage and increased kitchen activity are all added fire hazards that can turn the happiest time of year into a nightmare.

We’ve put together three lists of quick tips to help homeowners make sure their fire alarms are working perfectly during the holidays and throughout the year.

Installation Tips for Fire Alarms

  • Fire alarms should be installed high on the wall or on the ceiling. This is because smoke rises, making the alarms more effect than if they were placed down low.
  • Install a fire alarm in each bedroom of the house.
  • Install at least one fire alarm on every level of your home. This includes the basement and attic if it has been converted into a living space.
  • Write the date of the install on the back of each fire alarm to serve as an expiration date (see below for more details).

Testing Tips for Fire Alarms

  • Testing should be done after installation and on a regular basis thereafter ensure that the batteries haven’t died and that each alarm is still mechanically sound.
  • Know your equipment. Fire alarms can either be powered solely by batteries, or they can be hard-wired into the home’s electrical system with batteries used as back up during power outages. Additionally fire alarms are either ionization, photoelectric or dual detectors. Dual provides the best coverage since ionization and photoelectric sensors detect different types of fires.
  • If anyone else is in the home during the testing give them a fair warning before you start setting off the alarms.
  • It’s always best to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for testing your fire alarm, but most alarms can be tested by pressing and holding down the test button.
  • It may take a second or two before it makes a high-pitch sound. That is what you want to hear. If the siren is low or inconsistent the batteries need to be replaced.
  • If you have to replace the batteries check the alarm again to ensure it is working properly.
  • Examine the smoke detector’s grates to make sure dust and dirt haven’t built up. This can potentially block smoke and make the fire alarm less sensitive or even keep it from working altogether.
  • You can also test the fire alarms with actual smoke. You’ll need matches and a glass of water. Get directly under the smoke alarm, light a match then blow it out so the smoke goes into the alarm. Put the match in the glass of water and wait a few moments for the smoke detector to register the smoke and react. If the alarm doesn’t go off replace the batteries and check again. If the alarm doesn’t react after getting new batteries the unit may need to be replaced.
  • While you’re testing enlist the help of a family member or friend to help listen for the alarm. The other person should stand as far away from the alarm as possible. If they can’t hear the alarm clearly another fire alarm may need to be installed to ensure they can be heard everywhere in the house.

Maintenance Tips for Fire Alarms

  •  Test your fire alarms once a month to ensure they are still working properly. Letting maintenance lapse longer than that is risky when it comes to safety devices.
  • Check the expiration date. Like many products these alarms have a recommended shelf life. They may not be making noise, but fire alarms are constantly running. After about 10 years the constant use will catch up and they will no longer be effective.
  • Replace batteries every six months. This is the best way of ensuring that you don’t lose battery power between monthly checks.
  • If a fire alarm gives off false signals or is frequently set off by smoke from the kitchen or fireplace the batteries can wear out quicker, so you may need to check these more frequently and replace the batteries more often.

Tested and maintained fire alarms are possibly the best gift you can give your family this holiday season. These simple yet critical safety devices have been proven to increase your chances of surviving a fire by 50%. Don’t forget the extra batteries – they make perfect stocking stuffers!

For more tips on fire safety for the home check out our blog Fireplace Safety – Keeping Warm Without Creating a Fire Hazard!

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