A recent study from the NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency), found that around 95% of U.S. houses have more than one smoke detector installed. With that in mind, the same study discovered that the number of homes with non-working smoke detectors outnumbered the amount of homes with no smoke detection at all. By following the advice of fire experts and properly maintaining a testing schedule, you can trust your alarms will be ready when you need them.
Fire protection begins with purchasing the right smoke alarm, as dictated by your building code’s power requirements. The two most common types that are required vary from standard battery-operated alarms to ones that are wired into the home’s electricity. For individuals who have difficulty hearing, smoke alarms with flashing lights are used along with audible alarms.
Always purchase alarms that have been listed or approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), or a similar independent tester.
How Many Detectors Should I Have?
The NFPA publishes the Life Safety Code 101 to inform people of the regulations and best practices when it comes to fire safety, and in this case, the amount of smoke alarms to install. It recommends having at least one alarm on each floor, including basements and attics, and within 15 feet of bedrooms. Place smoke alarms inside of bedrooms if family members usually sleep with the door closed. Remember, the strategic placement of smoke alarms is just as important as keeping them powered.
The building codes that govern homes built in the last few years are significantly trying to improve residential fire safety. Most require hardwired alarms that are interconnected, meaning that all alarms will sound if one detects smoke or intense heat. Also, the new codes require the installation of smoke alarms in every bedroom of the house.
Installing the usual store-bought smoke alarm is really quite simple and will require only a drill and a screwdriver. Hardwired and interconnected alarms should be installed by a qualified electrician. Battery back-up should also be used with electrically powered alarms, as well.
Fire safety experts offer more installation advice:
- When installing a wall-mounted alarm, locate it between 6 to 12 inches below the ceiling.
- Ceiling-mounted alarms should be installed more than 6 inches away from any wall.
- On sloped and vaulted ceilings, located the alarm at the highest point.
- In open stairways, alarms should be placed near the top of the staircase.
- In closed stairways, like basement steps, the alarm should be placed at the bottom of the staircase.
- Do not install alarms in drafty areas of the house, like near windows, ceiling fans, or forced-air registers.
If you have any questions about installing fire alarms, call or email your local fire department. They will be happy to help you better protect your home against fires and show you the optimal places to install your smoke detectors.