Have You Checked Your Smoke Alarms This Year?
Recently there have been several home fires in Connecticut, some of them tragic. Some didn’t have any smoke detectors or, had some that did not work. One thing is apparent; smoke detectors are easily forgotten and over looked. I used to teach Indoor Air Quality and we covered these and Carbon Monoxide detectors but for now I just want to talk about home smoke detectors. I will suggest that you purchase a couple of CO/Smoke combination detectors to increase safety.
Making your home safer with smoke detectors is relatively easy, they are readily available at all hardware and box stores and are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. One thing you must understand is that these days the average home is full of products that are made of composites and plastics that when burned, create a toxic gas, you are not just exposed to wood smoke. This gas will put you unconscious quickly depending on the individual and exposure, but many times people never wake from their bed, they are overcome in less than a few minutes, which is why quick detection and multiple alarms are critical. Smoke detectors have a guide for suggested locations. I have one in each bedroom and two in the hallway at either end with escape lights. This is also why many new homes are required to have sprinkler systems; the smoke is so toxic every second counts.
I’m not going to get into what to do in case of a fire or escape routes, but encourage those in the local fire departments to leave additional info here in the comments sections.
I just want to give you a couple of very simple things you can and should do to make your home safer.
Change you batteries every year at least and test your smoke detectors monthly. What I do is time this for the New Year, that way it is easy to remember, some do it with Halloween. I keep a yearly calendar in my utility room so I can track maintenance on my home and this is easy to do so you can keep up on water filters, central vac filters, anything that has a maintenance cycle.
When you change the batteries write on the battery the date, this way down the road if you forget when you did replace them by simply removing them you’ll know for sure. If you have the ability and a tester you should test the voltage of the new batteries and the old ones. Generally a new 9V battery should be over 9 volts, somewhere in the neighborhood of 9.6 is common. This way you are sure you have full power, it is rare that new batteries are weak but it’s safer to test them. Batteries that you have removed from the detector should still be above 8 volts. If they are lower you may need to shorten the replacement schedule of the batteries to 6 or 8 months instead of 12.
Replace your detectors. Yes, I said replace them. Look at the back and see if you can find the date of manufacture. Detectors are electronic devices and are prone to random failures. Manufacturers recommend replacing your detector after 10 years. Studies have shown that at 15 years there is a 50/50 chance your detector has failed. What I do is write a replacement date on the side of the detector that is 8 years from when I installed it. This way I have a buffer, a margin of error and I increase my odds.
Clearly we all want to get our monies worth out of a product, but smoke detectors should be exempt from this type of thinking. Better to save your life and the lives of your loved ones than $20.00.