How to Maintain Smoke Detectors: 5 ways to keep your smoke alarms functioning at optimum levels. And plans to develop a Fire Escape Plan.
Fire, Fire. Exit the House. Fire, Fire. Exit the house.
At 3 AM a few months ago, my family was awoken by this alarm.
Terrified, my husband and I jumped out of bed and cautiously proceeded to get our children. My son was already out the front door but my daughter was in her room trying to stuff all her toys into a bag to take with her.
What turned out to be a false alarm, ended up being a huge awakening to my family. We clearly needed to address how to properly exit our house in case a real fire ever occurred–without toys!!
In past years we had mapped out an exit route and even practiced a mock fire drill in our house. But we had yet to discuss this crucial plan in our new home. And while our older son had clearly remembered the basics, our younger daughter had forgotten some basics–like the fact that in most home fires, you have less than 2 minutes to safely get out of a house.
Having a Fire Escape Plan
It was time for us to map out a Fire Escape Plan and practice it.
In fact, it is something we ALL should be doing with our families. The reality is that only 20% of families here in the United States have a plan.
For the sake of your family’s well-being, make your own Fire Escape Plan using this template. And don’t be afraid to practice your fire escape plan with your family.
Maintaining Your Fire Alarms
So any guesses as to what caused the false alarm in our house a few months ago?
It wasn’t low batteries or a faulty alarm.
It was a DIRTY SMOKE DETECTOR.
I had no idea how important it is to be routinely cleaning my smoke detectors. And I was shocked that the issue was a dirty fire alarm in what I thought was a pretty clean house. I mean, I use the dusting attachment on my vacuum and sweep the alarms at least once a month!
How to Properly Clean Your Smoke Detectors
But the problem was inside the alarm.
What I had NOT been doing, was taking my alarm down from the ceiling every six months and lightly tapping in my hand and then using an air compressor to lightly blow air over the vents of the alarm (alternatively, you can use a hair dryer set to cool air).
When the fire department showed me how to do this during their trip to my house earlier this year, a small piece of drywall fell from the alarm. Ahh, we had some construction work done shortly before the alarm had been triggered.
The fire fighters shared with me that they see little bugs trigger these alarms or a build up of dust.
But yet, very few people know how important it is to dust and clean their alarms regularly are. And I was one of those people!
And in case you are in the same boat as I was, here are some maintenance tips to help you.
How to Maintain Smoke Detectors
- Change batteries in fire alarm once a year.
- Replace entire fire alarm every 10 years.
- Every month, test each alarm by pushing the test button.
- Using a dust attachment on your vacuum, vacuum each alarm each month.
- Every six months, take the alarm down and thoroughly clean by dusting, tapping lightly, and blowing air through a compressor.
Take it from my experience, these maintenance steps are so worth it! While it was not fun to be awoken at 3 AM to learn these steps, I would rather have a false alarm then my alarm not work properly and NOT go off when a fire did occur.
A Few Other Things to Think about with Smoke Detectors:
- Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home,including your basement. Place them near sleepingareas, and inside each bedroom.
- If someone who lives in your home is deaf or hard ofhearing, buy alarms that use light and vibration tosignal a fire.
- Look for alarms that are connected to each other, eitherby wire or by wireless signal, so when one alarmsounds, the others do, too.
- Because smoke rises, install smoke alarms high onwalls or ceilings. Ceiling-mounted alarms should beat least 4 inches away from the nearest wall; wall-mounted alarms should be installed 4 to 12 inchesaway from the ceiling.