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Family Solutions: Safety Within The Home


Fire Prevention: Fire prevention programs
  American homes have at least one smoke alarm. But consider this fact: There are more homes with smoke alarms that don't work, than homes without any alarms. These poorly maintained units create a false sense of security for residents.

WORKING Smoke Alarms Save Lives. By properly selecting, placing, testing, and maintaining your smoke alarm, you will greatly increase your chances of surviving a home fire.

Alarm Selection

When you go to the store, you'll find there are many different types of alarms on the market. There are standard battery-operated alarms, 10-year battery-operated alarms, and others that operate on the home's electrical system.

Building codes and local requirements often dictate the type of power that will be required to operate smoke alarms.

There are also special alarms for people with hearing impairments. These have both an audible alarm and intense flashing lights.

No matter what type of alarm you purchase, make sure it is listed or approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

One? Two? Three? More?

Beyond the type of smoke detector, where it is placed is just as important as the type of smoke detector and how it is powered.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Life Safety Code 101 should be followed. Most codes require a minimum of one smoke alarm on every level, including basements, and within 15 feet of each sleeping area. If the door to the sleeping area is kept closed, it is also recommended that a smoke detector be placed inside the bedroom.

In new construction, the code requires hard-wired smoke alarms to be interconnected. This means that if one smoke alarm is activated, all alarms will sound. New construction also requires a smoke alarm be installed in each bedroom.

Put ‘em Up

Installing a smoke alarm is simple. A screwdriver and a drill are all you need to install a battery-operated alarm. Other alarms can also be hardwired directly into your home' electrical system. Hardwire installation should be done by a qualified electrician. Be sure to never connect an alarm to a circuit that can be turned off by a wall switch. Hard-wired systems should also be provided with a battery back up.

Always follow the manufacturer's installation instruction.

Wall-mounted alarms should be installed so the top is 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) from the ceiling.

Ceiling-mounted units should be installed at least 6 inches (15 cm) from any wall.

If a room has a vaulted ceiling, mount the alarm at or near the ceiling's highest point. In stairways with no doors at the top or bottom, position alarms in the path smoke would follow up the stairwell.

Mount alarms at the bottom of closed stairways, such as those leading to a basement. Dead air trapped near the door at the top of a stairway could prevent smoke from reaching an alarm located at the top.

Don't install an alarm too close to windows, doors, forced-air registers, or ceiling fans where drafts could interfere with the detector's operation.

If you have questions about the best places to install alarms, contact your local fire department for advice. Many departments will conduct home smoke alarm inspections for free or for a nominal fee.


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