Smoke alarms contribute significantly to the safety of your family by sensing smoke long before fire has had time to spread. Fire, smoke and toxic gases move swiftly and silently through a structure, reducing visibility and your ability to escape from the house safely. Poisonous gases and smoke from a fire in your home can numb the senses in a very short time. Every home needs a device that can wake people up in time to escape.
Choosing a Smoke Alarm
There are several name brands available including Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Factory Mutual (FM). It's recommended to have a combination ionization/photoelectric smoke alarm. Smoke alarms are available for the hearing impaired and can be purchased through your local fire equipment companies. It's important that you follow the manufacturer's recommendations for installation, testing and maintenance.
How Many Smoke Alarms Do You Need?
Install at least one smoke alarm outside each sleeping area and one on each level of the home. Smoke alarms are not recommended for kitchens because of false alarms from cooking vapors, garages where automobile exhaust might cause false alarms, attics or other unheated spaces where extremes of temperature or humidity might affect their operation. In these areas you should install a heat detector.
Installation - Where and How?
If you are a renter, the property owner is responsible for installing and maintaining alarms. To install most smoke alarms, all you need is a screwdriver and a drill. Because smoke rises, each alarm should be mounted high on a wall or on the ceiling to detect traces of smoke. Wall mounted alarms should be no less than 4" or nor more than 12" from the ceiling. Ceiling mounted detectors should be at least 4" from a wall. Smoke alarms should not be mounted near air vents.
It's extremely important to test and clean all detectors regularly. You need to test your alarm at least once a month and most alarms are equipped with a test button. Dust or cobwebs can reduce an alarm's sensitivity to smoke. Clean your smoke alarm at least 3-4 times a year by using the brush end of your vacuum cleaner. Replace the batteries at least once a year if the alarm is battery operated. Smoke alarms need to be replaced every ten years and never paint a smoke alarm.
Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board web site