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Smoke Alarm Safety

Recent models offer new options

On average, eight people die in house fires every day in the U.S.—almost 3,000 people every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Although working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a fire nearly in half, roughly two-thirds of all house fire deaths still occur in homes without working smoke alarms.

Newer smoke alarm recommendations and technologies provide greater protection than ever before. Your electric cooperative has some tips for making sure your smoke alarms are working properly to keep your family safe.

• Smoke detectors should be installed in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of multistory homes.

• For the best protection, alarms should be interconnected so that they all sound if one sounds. Manufacturers now are producing battery-operated alarms that are interconnected by wireless technology.

• Combination smoke alarms that include ionization and photoelectric alarms offer the most comprehensive protection. An ionization alarm is more responsive to flames, while a photoelectric alarm is more responsive to a smoldering fire.

• Hardwired smoke detectors with battery backups are more reliable than those powered solely by batteries.

• Install smoke detectors at least 10 feet from cooking appliances to reduce nuisance alarms. Alarms installed within 10–20 feet of a cooking appliance must be photoelectric or have a hush feature to temporarily reduce the alarm sensitivity.

• If possible, alarms should be mounted in the center of the ceiling. If mounted on a wall, an alarm should be located 6–12 inches below the ceiling.

• Smoke alarms should be tested once a month, and batteries should be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps” or “beeps” to indicate low batteries, they should be replaced immediately.

• Occasionally dust or lightly vacuum the exterior of the alarm.

• Smoke alarms should be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, at least every 10 years.