Having working smoke alarms in your home are a necessity to ensuring that your family will be safe in the event of a fire. Typically, residential type smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years, all alarms should have a manufactured date on them, and if they don’t then they must be replaced immediately. Many new smoke alarms on the market are equipped with a 10-year battery, meaning you do not have to change the battery for 10 years. At that 10 year mark, you simply replace the alarm. If you have a smoke alarm that does not have a 10 year battery, the batteries should be replaced every 6 months, daylight savings time is a good time to do this.
Ideally, the alarms in your home should also be interconnected. What this means is that they are all wired together, not only for a power source, but also to activate all of the other alarms in your home. If your alarms are interconnected, this means that if one alarm detects smoke and activates, it also activates every other alarm that is connected to it. This allows for earlier warning to the residents/occupants throughout the home, which helps them in exiting to safety quicker.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Carbon monoxide alarms are designed to detect carbon monoxide and alarm, notifying the residents/occupants to exit the home. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas meaning that you cannot know it is there until it is too late. Carbon monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion. CO can come from any appliance that uses natural gas as a fuel, typically your furnaces, water heaters, stoves/ovens and laundry dryers. Fireplaces, whether gas or wood, wood-burning stoves, and vehicles are also other sources of CO.
Carbon Monoxide alarms are very similar to smoke alarms, with some alarms even having the capability to work for both CO and smoke (these are called combination alarms). Most standalone CO alarms are only good for 7 years, although many combination alarms have a 10-year lifespan. Make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions for the alarm’s lifespan. The battery rules are the same as for smoke alarms, they should be changed every 6 months unless it has a 10 year battery. The manufacturer’s instructions will also have information on the chirp/alarm patterns and what they mean.
Cooking fires are the leading cause of all residential fires in the United States and have been for some time. From 2008 to 2017, there was an average of 371,150 residential fires per year, approximately 48% of those fires were caused by cooking. During that same time span, cooking caused and average of 178,840 fires, $436.8 million in damage, 3,770 injuries and 160 fatalities each year.
By practicing and using fire safety when you cook, you could very well save your family and your property. Here are some tips to live by:
- Do not use your stove/oven if you are sleepy or under the influence of alcohol or medications
- Stay within eyesight of the cooking apparatus (stove, oven, fryer, etc.) at all times – never leave the kitchen
- If you are baking, or “passively cooking”, continually check on the food or apparatus
- Keep any combustible items away from your stove top, hot oven, or warming tray beneath the oven.
- Always use extreme caution when cooking with oils and deep frying
Fire Escape Plans
Do you and your family know what to do when there is a fire? Fires can happen at any time, even when you are at home, so you must be prepared and have a plan in place to ensure that you and your family makes it to safety. Having a Fire Escape Plan for your home is of the utmost importance and ensures that even in the case of a fire, your family will be safe.
The first step in establishing a Fire Escape Plan is knowing your different means of escape. You must have a primary exit in case of a fire, and also a secondary means of escape in case the primary route is blocked. Next, you have to have a meeting place outside the home, this makes sure that everyone is accounted for and safe. Once everyone is out of the home, no one should ever re-enter the structure. You should call 911, or have someone call, at the earliest possible moment once everyone is out of the home. If someone is not able to get out of the home, the should try and get to a room with an exterior window and close the door. Closed doors have been proven to hold-up under moderate fire conditions for extended periods of time.
Once you have established a plan, you should practice it monthly so that everyone is familiar with it, especially children.