Fire Prevention Week: Check Your Smoke Alarms

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At home and at work: check your smoke alarms


Roughly half of all home fire deaths occur when everyone’s sleeping, between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., says the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA). Next week is National Fire Prevention Week , and it’s a great time to remind your homeowners of the life-saving importance of working smoke alarms.

The NFPA, Red Cross and U.S. Fire Administration all recommend installing smoke alarms in every bedroom and one outside each separate sleeping area (for instance, one outside the master bedroom if it’s in a different section of the house from the other bedrooms). Additionally, they say, install one on every level of your home – even your basement.

That’s overkill, your homeowners may say. Not at all, responds NFPA, offering these facts:

• Home fires killed an average of eight people every day in 2013
• Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths
• 25% of home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom
• Another 25% resulted from fires in the living room, family room or den
• 60% of home fire deaths were in homes with either no smoke alarms, or non-working ones
• Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half

Plus, many carriers offer homeowners’ discounts for multiple smoke alarm units.


Best smoke alarm options

Which type of smoke alarms should you recommend to your homeowners: hard-wired or battery? In fires considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, NFPA says hardwired alarms operated 93% of the time, while battery powered alarms operated only 79% of the time. Usually, when smoke alarms fail to operate, it’s because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead.

An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, while a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. When extra time is needed to awaken or assist others, both types of alarms (or a combination unit called a dual sensor) are recommended, says FEMA’s


Monitor and maintain your smoke alarms

Test your smoke alarms every month. Mark it on your calendar so you don’t forget. Replace batteries in battery-powered and hard-wired smoke alarms at least once a year (except non-replaceable 10-year lithium batteries).

Keep extra batteries on hand if yours are battery powered. (If you’ve ever tried to sleep through a beeping smoke alarm that’s signaling low battery, you’ll never be without batteries again.) When replacing a battery, follow manufacturer’s list of batteries on the back of the alarm or on their instructions. Manufacturer’s instructions are specific to the batteries (brand and model) that must be used. The smoke alarm may not work properly if a different kind of battery is used.

Replace all smoke alarms every eight-to-ten years or according to manufacturer’s instructions.Help your homeowners be aware of the importance of smoke alarms to increase their safety in the event of a home fire. View these websites for more smoke alarm safety tips to provide to your clients: