Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors have been around since the 1960s. They save so many lives that most states have laws requiring them in residential dwellings. Still thousands of people die each year in home fires where smoke detectors either aren't present or aren't working.

Proper placement offers an early warning that can mean the difference between life and death. Homes should ideally have smoke detectors on every level as well as outside each sleeping area. New homes are additionally required to have smoke detectors in each sleeping area. Most detectors are battery-powered and can be installed in minutes with a screwdriver. Some of the newer detectors will sound their alarm and wirelessly signal the other detectors to do the same.

Since smoke and deadly gases rise, detectors should be placed on the ceiling at least 4 inches from the nearest wall or high on a wall, 4-12 inches from the ceiling. These 4 inches are cruicial in order to keep the detector out of "dead air" spaces. In rooms where the ceiling has an extremely high point, such as in vaulted ceilings, mount the detector at or near the ceiling's highest point.

Change the batteries regularly! If you have troubles remembering when, simply change them every time you set your clock for daylight savings or a certain holiday rolls around.

Be sure to test your detectors! Not only to make sure they work but especially to make sure they work with your family. Pick a night and when your family is asleep set off one of the detectors using the test button. Did they wake up? Some do, some don't despite the shrill tone of the smoke alarm! In an interesting follow up experiment, yell at them to get up a few times and notice the difference. Some detectors, like this one from Amazon, will let you record your voice and alternate this with a loud alarm which just might give your family members precious time to get clear in the event of a fire.