County Offers Tips on Choosing Smoke Alarms
More than 3,000 people die in home fires every year.
The Hillsborough County fire marshal would like to remind residents of the importance of functioning smoke alarms in your home or business. Here are some tips and facts that could help save your life:
More than 3,000 people die in home fires every year. Many of these deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms.
The majority of fatal home fires happen at night, when people are asleep.
Contrary to popular belief, the smell of smoke may not wake a sleeping person. The poisonous gases and smoke produced by a fire can numb the senses and put you into a deeper sleep.
Inexpensive household smoke detectors sound an alarm, alerting you to a fire. By giving you time to escape, smoke detectors cut your risk of dying in a home fire nearly in half.
Smoke detectors save so many lives, most states have laws requiring them in private homes.
Choosing a detector
Be sure that the smoke detectors you buy carry the label of an independent testing laboratory.
Several types of detectors are available. Some run on batteries, some on household current, others run on both.
Some detect smoke use an "ionization" sensor; others use a "photoelectric" detection system.
All approved smoke detectors, regardless of the type, will offer adequate protection provided they are installed and maintained properly.
Is one enough?
Every existing home should, at a minimum, have one smoke detector outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.
The current Florida Fire Prevention Code requires dual-powered (battery and house current) smoke detectors, inside and outside each sleeping room and on every floor level for new construction.
On floors without bedrooms, detectors should be installed in or near living areas, such as dens, living rooms or family rooms.
Be sure everyone sleeping in your home can hear your smoke detector's alarms. If any residents are hearing- impaired or sleep with bedroom doors closed, install additional detectors inside sleeping areas as well. Special smoke detectors are available for the hearing impaired; these flash a light in addition to sounding an audible alarm.
Smoke detectors are not recommended for kitchens, bathrooms or garages – where cooking fumes, steam or exhaust fumes could set off false alarms - or for attics and other unheated spaces where humidity and temperature changes might affect a detector's operation.
Where to install
Because smoke rises, mount detectors high on a wall or on the ceiling.
Wall-mounted units should be mounted so that the top of the detector is 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 cm) from the ceiling.
A ceiling-mounted detector should be attached at least 4 inches (10 cm) from the nearest wall.
In a room with a pitched ceiling, mount the detector at or near the ceiling's highest point.
In stairways with no doors at the top or bottom, position smoke detectors anywhere in the path of smoke moving up the stairs. But always position smoke detectors at the bottom of closed stairways, such as those leading to the basement, because dead air trapped near the door at the top of a stairway could prevent smoke from reaching a detector located at the top.
Don't install a smoke detector too near a window, door, or forced-air register where drafts could interfere with the detector's operation.
Most battery-powered smoke detectors and detectors that plug into wall outlets can be installed using only a drill and a screwdriver, by following the manufacturer's instructions. Plug-in detectors must have restraining devices so they cannot be unplugged by accident.
Detectors can also be hard-wired into a building's electrical system. A qualified electrician should install hard-wired detectors.
Never connect a smoke detector to a circuit that can be turned off by a wall switch.
Never disable a detector by "borrowing" its battery for another use.
Following the manufacturer's instructions, test all your smoke detectors monthly and install new batteries at least once a year.
A good reminder is when you change your clocks in the spring or fall: change your clock, change your battery.
Clean your smoke detectors using a vacuum cleaner without removing the detector's cover.
Never paint a smoke detector.
Smoke detectors don't last forever. Replace any smoke detector that is more than 10 years old.
Plan and practice
Make sure everyone is familiar with the sound of the detector’s alarm.
Plan escape routes. Know at least two ways out of each room. Agree on a meeting place outside your home where all residents will gather after they escape. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
Remove obstructions from doors and windows needed for escape.
Make sure everyone in the household can unlock doors and windows quickly, even in the dark. Windows or doors with security bars should be equipped with quick-release devices, and everyone in the household should know how to use them.
When an alarm sounds, leave immediately. Go directly to your outside meeting place and call the fire department.
Once you're out, stay out. Never return to a burning building.
Some of this information is courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association.