They have been in every new home built since the late 1970’s. Most people don’t notice or even think about them until late in the night you hear a “chirp”. It isn’t a continuous sound, but every couple minutes you hear it again. That “chirp” is a warning from your smoke alarm that the battery needs replacing. The smoke alarm will continue to “chirp” until the batteries are replaced.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted a survey and found out that one in every five homes equipped with smoke alarms the alarms were not working. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 65% of home fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms at all or no smoke alarms that work. When there is a fire, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out.
False alarms are safety issue for the your family and the community. Every year the El Mirage Fire Department responds to numerous false alarms. False alarms create complacency amongst the building occupants and they also tie up limited resource needed to protect the community.
Smoke alarms are like any other appliance, they need maintenance. The NFPA recommends that you test your smoke alarms once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year as well as using a vacuum or can of compressed air to blow out accumulated dust
Most smoke alarms are powered by your ordinary home electrical supply and also have a 9 volt battery back-up in the event of a power failure.
To test your smoke alarm simply push in the button on the face of the alarm and hold it until the smoke alarms sound continuously. That tells you that the alarms are functioning. Once a year you need to physically remove the 9 volt batteries and replace them with new ones. While you are there, it is a good idea to vacuum the dust off the smoke alarm or use the canned air, commonly used to blow out computers, to blow the dust out of the smoke alarm. Many times false alarms are cause by dust in the smoke alarm.
To keep your smoke alarm working to protect your family the NFPA offers these simple tips:
- Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound
- An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types of alarms or a combination alarm (photoelectric and ionization) should be installed in homes.
- Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.
- Smoke rises; install smoke alarms following manufacturer’s instructions high on a wall or on a ceiling. Save manufacturer’s instructions for testing and maintenance.
- Replace batteries in all smoke alarms at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps,” warning the battery is low, replace battery right away.
- Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use ten year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are ten years old or sooner if they do not respond properly when tested.
- Be sure the smoke alarm has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
- Alarms that are hard-wired (and include battery backup) must be installed by a qualified electrician.
- If cooking fumes or steam sets off nuisance alarms, replace the alarm with an alarm that has a “hush” button. A “hush” button will reduce the alarm’s sensitivity for a short period of time.
- An ionization alarm with a hush button or photoelectric alarm should be used if the alarm is within 20 feet of a cooking appliance.
- Smoke alarms that include a recordable voice announcement, in addition to the usual alarm sound, may be helpful in waking children through the use of a familiar voice.
- Smoke alarms are available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These alarms use strobe lights. Vibration equipment can be added to these alarms.
- Smoke alarms are an important part of a home fire escape plan.