Introduction to Smoke Alarms
Smoke Alarms are a critical part of Fire Prevention and one of the easiest ways help protect yourself from a devastating fire in your home. •The batteries of all alarms should be changed every 6 months. A good idea is to change the batteries during daylight savings time. That way you be certain that your alarms will work when you truly need it during an emergency. Even hardwired alarms need to have their back up batteries replaced to ensure that they will work during a power failure.
A homeowner MUST have at least one smoke alarm installed on each level. It is RECOMMENDED that there also be a smoke alarm in each bedroom. Aside from kitchen fires, bedroom fires account for the second highest cause of fire deaths in the home. Placing smoke alarms in your bedrooms as well as hallways could increase a family’s escape time by 15 minutes.
Change your clocks, change your batteries!
It is imperative that all smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide alarms are tested every month. Chose a date that is easy to remember (such as the 1st, 15th, or the last day of the month) and test the alarm by simply pressing the “Test” button located on the front of the unit.
•Every homeowner is responsible for the smoke alarms within the residence.
As of 2010 the National Building Code requires all new homes to be built with a hardwired, interconnecting system of smoke alarms with a battery backup.
•Smoke alarms should also be placed in every bedroom or any room where a person may be sleeping.
If fire starts in bedroom, waiting until a hall mounted alarm senses the smoke causes an unacceptable delay, especially if the door is closed.
•A closed door can reduce an alarm’s sound level by 10dBA. A smoke alarm in a hallway still also required as they are better able to detect smoke outside the bedroom.
•NEVER remove a battery, or the smoke alarm unit, to silence a nuisance alarm*. All alarms should have a temporary Silence button.
It is imperative that all smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide alarms are tested every month. To test the alarm by simply pressing the “Test” button located on the front of the unit.
*A nuisance alarm, or false alarm, is an emergency alarm, such as a fire alarm, that is set off unnecessarily. This can be caused by food burning, smoking in the home, steam from a shower, candles, or mechanical failure of the alarm itself.
Smoke Alarm: Installation
For installation of your smoke alarm, please refer to the owner’s manual. Most battery operated units are mounted by small harness, or ring, that houses the alarm. Some are installed with screws, others can be attached to the ceiling with an adhesive.
A smoke alarm should be installed in:
•The inside of each bedroom
•The outside of sleeping areas such as; hallways, a living room or near the kitchen.
•On each level of the home, including the basement.
Remember smoke rises; install your alarms either on the ceiling or high up on the wall. If mounting to a wall, be sure the smoke alarm is 12 inches down from the ceiling. If you have a ceiling that is pitched, install the smoke alarm 3 feet (approx. 1 meter) down from the apex or the pitch.
Do not install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.
Pre-existing hardwired mounts will have a quick connection that attaches to the alarm. If no hard-wire mount exists, one must be installed by a licensed professional. If alarms are interconnected make sure that they are from the same manufacturer, other which they may not be compatible.
Smoke alarms in kitchens should be installed at least 10 feet (3 meters) from any cooking appliance to minimize nuisance alarms.
Alarms test the air that surrounds the circumference of the unit, not from the front. Be sure the area around the unit is clear of obstructions, as flat as possible, and that the alarm is not in a recessed hole.
Smoke Alarm Features
Remote Control: Some alarms feature a remote to test the smoke alarm and to temporarily silence nuisance alarms. The remote is excellent for those with high ceilings, the elderly, or those with disabilities.
Front Load Battery: Compartments on the front of the unit that allow for the backup battery to be changed without having to remove the unit from its bracket. All smoke alarms should have a Low Battery indicator. This is usually done with a ‘chirping’ noise to indicate when a battery needs changing.
The unit has pre recorded messages that indicate whether the alarm is a Fire, Carbon Monoxide, or Low Battery
LED lights: When an alarm is triggered, LED lights on the unit will turn on allowing for better visibility at night or in smoke. Strobe light alarms are available for the hearing impaired.
Wireless Interconnect: All alarms are connected within the home wireless (via Bluetooth or radio frequency) when one alarm is triggered, all alarms will sound. These are great for homes with multiple stories.
Care and Maintenance
Did you know smoke alarms expire?
It is recommended that a smoke alarm be replaced every 10 years; most smoke alarms today have an expiry date attached. Even if the smoke alarm looks fine, it has been exposed to the atmosphere in your home for the past 10 years and may no longer function during an emergency. Best to be safe and replace your alarm every 10 years.
A buildup of; dust, pollen, pet dander, cooking emulsions or cigarette smoke can cause frequent nuisance alarms, or cause the unit to stop functioning all together. Every 6 months, when you change the battery, clean your smoke alarms. Clean the cover using a soft brush or wand attachment to a vacuum cleaner, also ensure all vents are free of debris. Refer to your smoke alarms owner’s manual for more information on cleaning and care.
During renovations, cover a smoke alarm with plastic or painter’s tape. If the renovation has created a lot of dust and debris, you may want to consider disposing of the smoke alarm and replacing it with a new one once the renovations are complete.
Never paint smoke alarms. Paint, stickers, or other decorations could keep the alarms from working properly.
Always test a smoke alarm after installing a new one, or after replacing the batteries.