Three Simple Steps to Maintain your Smoke Alarm
Having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of survival in case of a fire. According to NFPA, 3 out of 5 deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarm. In a fire, you have just minutes to escape and having a working smoke alarm can buy your family time to get out safely.
Step 1 – Clean and Test Your Smoke Alarm Monthly
Smoke alarms should be tested monthly WITH SMOKE. When most people think of testing a smoke alarm, they think of pushing the button. This is a good start. It tells you that the power source is working and that the alarm sounds. What it doesn’t tell you is if it will actually detect a fire. The only way to do this is to test it with smoke. The safest way to do this is using Smoke Detector Tester Spray, or in other words, canned smoke. If you don’t have this available, you can also simply light a candle, blow it out and use the smoke to test the smoke alarm.
While you’re up there, clean any dust away from the detector to make sure it’s not blocking the sensor.
Step 2 – Change Your batteries When You Change Your Clock!
You’ll often hear reminders to change your batteries in your smoke alarm when it’s time to change your clock for daylight savings time in the Spring and in the Fall. Most manufacturers recommend changing the batteries AT LEAST once per year. So why do you need to be reminded twice a year? Because, let’s face it, odds are that you will forget at least one of those times! So if you make it a goal to change your batteries in the Spring and the Fall, you’ll probably do it at least once!
Teachers – Time change week is a good week to do a lesson on smoke alarms with your children and remind them to remind their parents. Stop by your local fire department and they will probably donate a smoke alarm for Fire Safety education. Some even have batteries available that you can send home. Use coloring sheets to send home to remind the parents. Download our free coloring sheets here.
For those with older family members, make sure you are changing their batteries for them. Climbing up on a ladder can be hazardous. While you’re up there, test it and make sure your loved one can hear it. If it’s not loud enough for them to hear, it may be time to update with a louder alarm with a strobe light for the hearing impaired. Since most fatal fires happen at night, you may even want to get one with a bed shaker.
Step 3 – Replace Your Smoke Alarm AT LEAST Every 10 Years.
Smoke alarms should be replaced at least every 10 years. If you have no idea how old your smoke alarm is, remove it from the wall and look at the back. The date of manufacture should be printed there. When you buy a new smoke alarm, take a look at the package to see how long the warranty is. Write the “installed on” and “replace by” date on the side of your new alarm with a sharpie.
For more information on choosing a new smoke alarm, check out our blog What Type of Smoke Alarm Do I Need?