If you can’t remember the last time you replaced your smoke alarm, you have a good reason to be alarmed, but you’re also not alone. In one of our recent surveys, we found that 13 percent of Americans have never replaced the smoke alarms in their homes, making them among the 119 million households across the country that do not meet the smoke alarm recommendations set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
October is a month full of fire prevention activities, including Fire Prevention Week, to help make sure your family and your home are properly protected in case of a house fire. This month, I want to share a few tips regarding fire safety at home.
Like many household products, smoke alarms have an expiration date and need to be replaced. So how long is too long to keep your smoke alarm? We say a typical, well-maintained smoke alarm provides your home with 10 years (or 87,000 hours) of service. If the alarms in your home have exceeded this timeframe, or if you can’t recall when you installed your smoke alarms, replace them immediately!
Besides replacement, think about the alarm coverage in your home. Just one working smoke alarm may not be enough to protect your family from disaster. The NFPA recommends that homes install smoke alarms on every level of the home and in the main corridor outside sleeping areas.
Once the smoke alarms are installed, many homeowners forget to take the next step – maintaining their alarms. You should replace the batteries in your smoke alarm twice a year. I recommend doing this at the same time every year. The way I remember is to check on Daylight Saving Time when I turn my clocks back or forward.
More often than replacing alarms or batteries, test the smoke alarms to make sure they are in working condition by holding down the alarm’s test button. Do this once a month.
Another good measure to help ensure your safety during a fire is to develop an escape plan. Create multiple escape routes so that if one exit is blocked, your family can easily locate another in a time of emergency. Be sure to share this plan with the whole family and even practice the plan together. It’s also a smart idea to wake your children up out of their beds when practicing, so that they know what to do if a smoke alarm sounds in the middle of the night.
All escape plans should ultimately route family members to an agreed upon location a safe distance from the home, where you can call emergency services. Plans also should include the items necessary to safely exit the home, such as an escape ladder for a second or third floor room. Interlinked alarms also can help aid your family’s escape plan. These types of alarms “talk” to each other so that when the alarm sounds, all alarms, no matter where you are, tell you the location of the fire.
Over the years, our smoke alarms have helped save many lives, but this is only possible if you do your part, too. Making sure you and your family are prepared for a house fire can help save your life and your home.Debbie Hanson is the Director of External Affairs for First Alert, a trusted brand in home safety products.