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Smoke Detectors

Life-saving tips for selection and maintenance.

Do you use a wheelchair or walker? Is it hard for you to walk fast? Do you have trouble seeing at night? Do you lose your balance easily? Sleep very soundly? These and other physical conditions can make it harder for you to get out of a burning house. Smoke detectors can help you improve your odds of getting out without harm, whether you're young or old, sleep on the first floor or the third.

Smoke detectors provide you with an early warning of fire in your home. They give you the extra time you need to get outside safely. Most fatal fires take place at night when you are asleep. A smoke detector can wake you up and let you know you are in danger.

Smoke detectors save many lives each year. That's why most states have laws that require them in private homes.

Smoke Detector Features

You can pick up a smoke detector in any hardware store. At first glance, they all look pretty much the same. But they have important differences.

Some smoke detectors run on batteries. You need to replace these batteries twice a year. Some detectors run on your home's electric current. They won't work if you lose power. Put both types of detectors in your house. That way, you will always be protected.

Not all smoke detectors work in the same way. "Ionization" units are better at detecting fires with big flames. This type of fire might start when papers burst into flames. "Photoelectric" units are better at detecting fires that start slow and have more smoke. This kind of fire might start when a cigarette is left on a couch. Which one should you buy? Some people buy both. This may not be necessary. Both kinds of detectors will work well on all types of fires. Both kinds must pass the same safety tests before they are sold.

Most smoke detectors sound a loud alarm when there is smoke in the room. This alarm should be loud enough to wake you from sleep. If you have trouble hearing it, get a detector that comes with a bright strobe light. This light blinks when the detector senses smoke. Place the detector right near your bed so the light will wake you up.

Some smoke detectors shine a bright light every time the alarm sounds. This light helps you see where you're going. Put one of these detectors near an exit so you can find your way to the door.

Care of Smoke Detectors

Put at least one smoke detector on each floor of your home. It's a good idea to put a smoke detector outside each bedroom area. Keep in mind that smoke rises. Mount the smoke detector on the upper part of a wall or on the ceiling.

Change batteries at least twice a year. Get in the habit of doing this when you change your clocks each fall and spring. Then you will never forget. Vacuum each smoke detector once a year. This will keep it working properly. Don't paint your smoke detector.

Test your smoke detector from time to time. That way you'll know it is still working. Most detectors have a test button you can push. The detector is still working if an alarm sounds when you push the button. The test button will be hard to reach if your detector is on the ceiling. Don't stand on a ladder to reach it. You could fall. Instead, look for a smoke detector that you can test by waving a flashlight beam back and forth across the sensor. Then you can test the detector without putting yourself at risk.

Other Safety Tips

Getting smoke detectors is a good way to keep your family safe. There's even more you can do. Keep a fire extinguisher on each floor of the house and in the kitchen. Make sure your family knows what to do if the smoke detector sounds. Plan at least two exits from each room. And make sure everyone knows about them.

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