We’ve all heard the popular expression, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” When it comes to fire safety in the home, heed this warning carefully. Nearly two-thirds of all home fire deaths occur in homes with either no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

For the protection of everyone in your home, it’s imperative you have working and properly maintained smoke alarms.

Choosing The Right Smoke Alarm

First, you’ll need to know the difference between ionization and photoelectric. Ionization smoke alarms better detect fires emitting flames, while photoelectric smoke alarms are better suited for smoldering fires. Your safest choice is to select a combination alarm offering both capabilities. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation, which will include installing on the ceiling at the high point of a wall. Only choose smoke alarms certified by a recognized testing laboratory. Choosing the right smoke alarm is half the battle. The remainder of the fight lies in understanding the proper way to use and maintain smoke alarms to ensure everyone’s safety.

  • Install smoke alarms inside and outside every bedroom and on every floor of your home, including the basement.
  • Interconnect all smoke alarms in the home, so when one goes off…they all go off.
  • Test each alarm at least once a month.
  • Replace smoke alarm batteries at least once a year.
  • Replace batteries immediately upon hearing a low battery-warning signal, which is most typically a chirping sound.
  • Contract a licensed electrician to do the work when hard-wiring smoke alarms.
  • Make sure all residents of your home, especially children, know what the smoke alarm sounds like. Consider purchasing a unit that offers a recordable voice announcement, so a child recognizes your personal voice alert in addition to the normal warning sound.
  • Install smoke alarms with strobe lights and vibrating features for those deaf or visually impaired in the home.

The Hot Spot: Smoke Alarms In The Kitchen

In 2010, cooking accidents caused approximately 156,400 home fires, according to fire departments throughout the United States. These incidences led to 410 deaths, 5,310 injuries and over $990 million in property damage. Be sure to install a combination ionization and photoelectric alarm within 20 feet of a cooking appliance. If your smoke alarm goes off when you are cooking, never take down the alarm and remove the battery. Instead, choose a unit that offers a “hush” feature, which will quiet the alarm for a short time.