Testing & Maintaining Smoke Detectors

The 2014 Fire Prevention Week theme is Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives, and the statement could not be truer. The third leading cause of fatal home injuries are deaths resulting from home fires and more than one third of these incidents occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Maintaining working smoke detectors in the home is a lifesaving necessity that no one can afford to ignore.

So important is the need for properly functioning smoke alarms in every home that new laws are being passed for mandatory usage of new 10-year battery operated smoke detectors and installation of a smoke alarm in every bedroom or space where someone sleeps. These are some notable new changes in fire prevention law but one thing that still remains the same is the necessity for monthly smoke detector testing in order to be sure of a detector’s efficiency.

Testing smoke alarms every month is the only way to be certain that you will be alerted in the event of a fire. Properly maintained smoke detectors provide the best chance to detect home fires and widespread usage has resulted in a significant reduction in injuries and deaths from fire. You can decrease your chances of injury or death in a home fire by installing smoke detectors and testing them every single month.

How to Test Your Smoke Alarm

  1. Smoke detectors make a very loud, high-pitched sound, so you should alert family members and other residents that you will be testing your alarms to avoid frightening them.
  2. If you have a large amount of space in your home, you should position someone the farthest distance from the smoke alarm to check if the sound can reach them. If the alarm is difficult to hear, you should install another smoke detector in that location, so the alarms can be heard in all areas of the home.
  3. All smoke detectors have a test button that will make the alarm sound off when pushed. Push and hold the button until a very loud alarm sounds. The sound should be ear-piercingly loud. If it is not, then you should replace the batteries immediately and try again. If the sound is still not loud enough, replace the entire smoke detector.
  4. Now that you have checked that the alarm sound and batteries are functioning properly, you should check the smoke alarm’s ability to detect smoke. Light a match and blow it out, or blow out a lit candle, directly under the smoke detector. (Be sure to place the blown out match in water to make sure it is completely out.) The detector’s alarm should sound, momentarily. If it doesn’t, replace the battery and try again. Replace any smoke detector that does not respond to this test after the batteries have been replaced.

You can also use a spray can of smoke detector test aerosol, which can be found in any hardware store, but the chemical will need to be vacuumed out of the detector after use.

General Smoke Detector Maintenance

  • Replace every smoke detector after 10 years, regardless of monthly test performance.
  • Replace smoke detector batteries every 6 months, regardless of monthly test performance.
  • Keep smoke detectors clean and free from dust. Dust build up can interfere with smoke detection.
  • Never paint, decorate, or hang objects on smoke detectors. You won’t mind that it doesn’t match the rest of the room when it’s alerting you of a house fire.
  • Never use detectors of an unknown age. The date of manufacture should be displayed on the back. Anything over 10 years old should be disposed of.

Follow these easy steps and guidelines and rest easy knowing that you and your family are well protected from the dangers of home fires.

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