07 January, 2011

Smoke Detectors

In the course of my work, I am in a lot of houses.  I’ve seen some poor housekeeping, bad wiring and many other serious things that would ordinarily cause a building to be condemned.  But, in households with small children; what especially scares me are non-functioning smoke detectors. The common cause for the malfunction that the batteries are dead or missing.

According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) research; more than half of all residential fire fatalities occur at night while people are sleeping.  Smoke detectors cut the risk of fatalities in a home fire almost in half.  Ensure that your smoke detectors are working, test it monthly by pushing the test button. The only real maintenance needed to keep your smoke detector in proper working order is to install new batteries twice a year.  Many folks change batteries when they change their clocks for daylight savings time.  While you have the cover open, a quick vacuuming would finish the job.

Placing Smoke Detectors
To ensure that a smoke detector will work as it was designed, read the manufacturer's instructions for installation.  Usually, the proper placement is on the ceiling. However, if a wall is be used, install the smoke detector(s) at a distance of 4”-to-6" from the ceiling.  
Smoke detectors should be installed on every level of your home, including the basement and attic.  Install one smoke detector outside each sleeping area in your home.  Place smoke detectors away from the kitchen so cooking vapors will not cause nuisance alarms.   
Note: Smoke detectors should be replaced every 5-to-10 years.  If you have just moved in to a house and the detectors look old, just change them immediately.

Create a plan for when an alarm sounds.  Every second is critical, make sure your family has an escape plan in case an alarm sounds.  Have a fire drill so that everyone understands where to go.  Remember to stay low under smoke where the air is fresher, cooler and easier to breathe.

These are the essentials of a good plan to follow.

Plan two ways out of every room.

Make sure you can open doors and windows in every room.

Designate a family meeting place outside the home.

Once outside, call 911. Do not re-enter the home.
Operation Save-a-Life, a program of the American Red Cross and the Cleveland Heights Fire Department, provides FREE smoke alarms and batteries to Cleveland Heights residents.  Smoke alarms are distributed by Cleveland Heights firefighters at no cost to residents.  To apply for a free smoke alarm (verification of residency required), visit the Fire Chief's Office, located at Cleveland Heights City Hall, 40 Severance Circle.

For those of you outside of Cleveland Heights, try calling your local chapter of the American Red Cross or fire department to see if they have a similar program.