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Smoke Detectors

Properly installing and maintaining smoke detectors at home safeguards your family.

When it comes to protecting your home and family, little is more important than functioning smoke detectors. These crucial devices rely on cutting-edge technology, including ionization identification, photoelectric sensors, and heat detectors, to ensure your home is prepared for any unexpected fire threat.

The Dangers of Fires

The grim reality is that a fire breaks out every 93 seconds, and one in five of those takes place in residences. Even more disturbing, house fires are responsible for nearly two-thirds of fire fatalities and over half of fire-related injuries. 

In 2021 alone, a staggering 1.35 million fires in the United States resulted in 3,800 fatalities, 14,700 injuries, and a jaw-dropping $15.9 billion in property damage.

The Power of Smoke Alarms

Data furnished by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) from 2014 to 2018 underscores the indispensable role of smoke alarms. Smoke alarms were present in a whopping three-quarters of reported household fires. However, an alarming three out of five home fire deaths occurred in residences with either absent or malfunctioning smoke alarms, accounting for 41% and 16%, respectively.

The NFPA's verdict is clear: homes equipped with operational smoke alarms exhibit a 55% lower fire death rate compared to those without functional alarms. Fatal injuries in homes with working smoke alarms are statistically more likely to involve incidents that occurred close to the fire's origin, persons with disabilities, individuals aged 65 or older, or those who attempted to combat the fire themselves. 

Two-thirds of home fire fatalities in homes equipped with smoke alarms occur in properties reliant on battery-powered alarms. This could be due to failure to work properly in an emergency. Hard-wired smoke detectors work properly in 94% of fire incidents, while battery-powered units have just an 82% effectiveness rate.

The Art of Smoke Detector Installation

Installing smoke detectors isn't merely a suggestion; it's a critical life-saving maneuver. It’s imperative that you adhere to the manufacturer's instructions and local building codes when installing yours. 

As a rule of thumb, place smoke detectors on every level of your residence, including the basement and outside each sleeping area. To prevent false alarms, position detectors at least 10 feet away from cooking appliances.

The NFPA offers additional tips for proper installation.

Mount Detectors Properly

Place detectors directly on the ceiling or high on the wall. If on the wall, keep them 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the optimal distance and other installation directions.

Avoid Interference

Keep detectors away from doors, windows, and AC vents to prevent interference from indoor drafts.

Ensure Ample Coverage

You need at least one alarm per floor and in (or just outside) every bedroom. Don’t forget the basement! You should also place a smoke alarm in your kitchen, ideally 10 feet from stoves, ovens, ranges, toasters, or microwaves.

Consider Hard-Wired Alarms

Elevate safety with interconnected alarms, whether through hardwired systems connected to home security or battery-powered alarms communicating via radio frequency signals.

Buy Recommended Detectors

Opt for smoke alarms labeled by reputable testing laboratories like Underwriters Laboratories.

Maintenance Maximizes Smoke Detector Safety

Noticing a fire before it’s out of control is critical, and smoke detectors are uniquely qualified to do this on your behalf. Keeping yours in good working order will give you the best chance at safely escaping a fire, should one occur.

Here are some essential safety tips to supercharge the effectiveness of your smoke detector.

Test Detectors Monthly

Conduct monthly checks of your alarms by pressing the test button. Replace the batteries or the unit if the alarm remains silent.

Change Batteries Semi-Annually

Swap out batteries twice a year or as per the manufacturer's recommendations. Consider using long-lasting lithium batteries for longevity.

Avoid False Alarms

Prevent false alarms by keeping detectors away from areas with steam or smoke, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Keep Detectors Clean

Regularly vacuum or dust detectors to prevent dirt and dust accumulation that could hamper their functionality. Avoid painting detectors, as doing so may clog vents and hinder performance.

Replace Outdated Units

Smoke detectors have a limited lifespan, which is typically around ten years. Swap them out when they reach the end of their recommended life.

Man smelling smoke and smoke detector going off
React quickly when your smoke detector sounds and leave the building

What to Do When an Alarm Sounds

In case of a sounding alarm, act swiftly, stay calm, and follow these crucial steps.

Remain Calm and Take Threats Seriously

In emergencies, clear thinking is your ally. Treat every alarm as an emergency, evacuating promptly. Leave the building without delay, avoiding unnecessary detours.

Crawl Low Under Smoke

If smoke is present, stay low to the ground where the air is cleaner. If you have time, place a wet cloth over your mouth and nose.

Check and Close Doors

Before opening a door, check for heat. If it's hot, find another exit. Close doors behind you if possible, to slow the fire's spread.

Use an Alternative Exit

You should always keep at least three means of egress clear. If your primary route is blocked, seek an alternative.

Have a Meeting Place

Establish a safe meeting place at least 50 feet outside the home (or twice the height of the building) and instruct all family members to wait for you there in the event of an emergency.

Call for Help

As soon as you safely escape the burning building, it’s time to call 911. Alert emergency services and provide essential details.

Do Not Re-enter

Leave firefighting to the professionals. Stay outside and wait for the fire department's guidance before you go back inside your house.

Have a Plan

Familiarize everyone in your household with emergency numbers and establish a solid evacuation plan. Safety is paramount, so prioritize regular maintenance and testing of your smoke detectors. Practice leaving the house when they go off.

Get Ready for Any Emergency

It’s critical to your safety to be prepared for a fire. Know your local emergency numbers, establish an evacuation plan, and educate your children. Maintain your smoke detectors, consider hardwired alarms, and address any electrical issues promptly with the aid of qualified electricians like the experts at Thomas Edison Electric. 

Your safety is our priority, and these tips are your compass to a safer living environment. We proudly serve areas across Pennsylvania, including York, Dunmore, Allentown, and Harrisburg. Give us a call or schedule an appointment today, and let us help you safeguard your home!

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