Smoke Alarms Save Lives
The majority of home fires that kill people happen at night. If you're asleep, the smell of smoke won't always wake you up. In fact, smoke and poisonous gases can put you into a deeper sleep.
Inexpensive home smoke alarms can wake you in time to escape - cutting your chances of dying nearly in half. Smoke alarms do save lives, and, in most states, are required by law in private homes.
How to Choose an Alarm
Be sure that the smoke alarm you buy carries the label of an independent testing lab.
Some home smoke alarms run on batteries, others on household current. There are also different sensor technologies, some faster to react when fires are smoldering, others faster when fires are openly flaming, all are fast enough to provide sufficient warning. All laboratory tested smoke alarms, regardless of type, will protect you if they're installed and maintained properly.
How Many Do You Need?
Install at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home, including the basement, and outside each sleeping area. Smoke alarms should also be installed in sleeping rooms if you sleep with the doors closed. New homes required smoke alarms in each sleeping room. On floors without bedrooms, install alarms in or near dens, living rooms, family rooms, and other living areas.
Be sure everyone sleeping in your home can hear your smoke alarms. If someone in your home is hearing-impaired, you can install alarms that flash a strobe light as well as sound an alarm. Some even use a different alarm-pitch that is easier for partially deaf people to hear.
The National Fire Alarm Code does not recommend installing alarms in kitchens, bathrooms, or garages - where cooking fumes, steam, or exhaust might set off false alarms - or in attics or other unheated spaces.
Where to Install
Smoke rises, so mount alarms high on a wall or on the ceiling. Position wall-mounted alarms with the top of the alarm 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling. Position ceiling-mounted alarms at least 4 inches away from the nearest wall. In a room with a pitched ceiling, mount the alarm at or near the ceiling's highest point.
In stairways with no doors at the top or bottom, install alarms anywhere along the path smoke would take as it traveled up the stairs. But always position smoke alarms at the bottom of closed stairways, such as those leading from the basement. Dead air trapped near the door at the top of a stairway could prevent smoke from reaching an alarm located at the top.
Don't install a smoke alarm near a window, door, or forced-air register where drafts could interfere with its operation.
Most battery-powered smoke alarms and alarms that plug into wall outlets can be installed using only a drill and a screwdriver, by following the manufacturer's instructions. Plug-in alarms must have restraining devices so they can't be unplugged by mistake.
You can also hard-wire into your home's electrical system. Have a qualified electrician do the job. Never connect a smoke alarm to a circuit that can be turned off from a wall switch.
Cooking vapors, steam, and other fumes sometimes set off "nuisance" alarms. If this happens, don't take the battery out of your alarm. Try moving it away from the source of the problem. And clean your alarms regularly, following manufacturer's instructions.
Some new alarms come with a built-in "pause" button that lets you disable them safely for a few minutes, then turn them back on automatically.
Never "borrow" a smoke-alarms battery.
Test all your alarms monthly by pushing the "test button" and install new batteries at least once a year - when you set the clocks back in the fall, for example - or when your alarm is "chirping" to indicate that the battery is low. Clean your smoke alarms using a vacuum cleaner without removing the alarm's cover.