Smoke alarms are proven life savers. There are more than 300,000 residential fires every year, so when there is a fire, smoke alarms buy families valuable escape time.
Unfortunately, about two-thirds of fire deaths take place in homes with no smoke alarms or with non-working smoke alarms. The most common reasons why alarms did not work were missing, disconnected, or dead batteries. Consumers need to make sure that they have a working smoke alarm.
For better warning of fire, consumers should install smoke alarms on every level of the home, outside sleeping areas, and inside bedrooms. Replace batteries annually, and test the smoke alarms monthly. A good time to remember to replace batteries is when turning clocks ahead for daylight saving time on Sunday, March 9.
When shopping for smoke alarms, consumers should be aware of the two different types of smoke alarms: ionization and photoelectric. While both types are effective smoke sensors, ionization type detectors respond quickly to flaming fires, while photoelectric type detectors respond sooner to smoldering fires. Since consumers can’t predict what types of fires might break out, CPSC staff recommends (pdf) installing both ionization and photoelectric type smoke alarms (pdf) throughout the home for the best warning of a fire. This recommendation is also supported by the United States Fire Administration, the National Fire Protection Association, Underwriters Laboratories, and by research conducted by the National Institute for Standards and Technology. There are also dual sensor smoke alarms that have both ionization and photoelectric sensors in one unit.
Consumers should also consider interconnected smoke alarms. Interconnected alarms are connected to each other by a hard wire or by wireless technology. If one alarm is triggered, all interconnected alarms in the home sound, alerting consumers to the fire earlier.
Many residential fires are preventable. CPSC recommends consumers follow these safety steps:
Never leave cooking equipment unattended. Have a professional inspect home heating, cooling, and water appliances annually. Inspect electrical cords for signs of wear, cracks, or age, and keep lighting away from combustibles. Use caution with candles, lighters, matches, and smoking materials near upholstered furniture, mattresses, and bedding. Keep matches and lighters out of reach of young children. Have a fire escape plan (about 14 mb, Quicktime version 7 or greater format) and practice it so family members know what to do and where to meet if there’s a fire in the home. Children and the elderly may sleep through or not react to the sound of the smoke alarm, so parents and caregivers should adjust their fire escape plan to help them escape the house in the event of a fire.
For more information, also visit www.FireSafety.gov, for fire safety information from CPSC and other federal agencies