Over the past several years, my household has tested and re-tested the smoke alarms in our home. Having experienced 3 fires in my home over the past 2 years, I am keenly aware of the performance of my smoke detectors and became concerned after the most recent fire because of the slow response. While prevention is preferred, timely notification is key to keeping you family safe in the event of a fire.
According the US Fire Administration, smoke detectors typically have a useful life of about 10 years. All should be equipped with a back-up battery which will either last for the useful life, Lithium-Ion, or should be replaced annually, standard 9-volt. It is recommended that you test each alarm in your home once a month. In some applications, if all are hard-wired together, you simply test one and all will sound simultaneously.
If you are like me and realize the age of your detectors is reaching the end of their useful life, the time to shop for new detectors is now. My home is just short of 10 years old. Chances are, if you home is older than 10 years, you are likely due for new detectors as well. Looking online or at your local hardware store you will find a plethora of options ranging in price from $4 to over $100. Here are a few recommendations:
- Buy at least one Smoke/CO combo detectors – This is especially important if you have an attached garage or gas appliances (furnace or water heater). CO detectors should be places as close to the potential source, or point of entry, as possible.
- Use a combination of Ion and Photoelectric sensors to protect your home. Ion sensors detect open flames faster and Photoelectric detect smoldering flames faster.
- Place a detector in each bedroom and in the hall outside the bedroom. Also, placing detectors on each floor of the home is important to fire safety.
- For homes with hearing-impaired individuals, a strobe light pack can be added to interconnected units.
- Heat detectors can be used in areas where a smoke detector is impractical.
Whether the fire is due to a wiring issue, a candle, or toast left too long in the oven, keeping your home protected is key to surviving a house fire. Check smoke detectors monthly, replace batteries annually and exchange the entire unit every 10 years to keep your home safe.