Smoke Alarm Safety

Having working smoke detectors in your home is mandatory.  In Ontario you must have a smoke detector on every level of your home and outside all sleeping areas.  They should be secured high up on a wall or on a ceiling since smoke rises.  Noncompliance can result in tickets and fines.  It is a serious safety issue to not have the required alarms.  Many deaths occur every year due to not having working fire alarms. These are largely preventable.  Also, having these devices can allow you to notify emergency services more quickly which will hopefully lead to less damage to your property.

You should regularly check your fire alarms to ensure that they are working properly.  You should be testing them every month.  You can easily test them by pressing the button to see if the alarm sounds.  They can also be tested by blowing out a candle and holding it underneath the alarm.  However, never test a smoke alarm with an open flame.  You could end up damaging the device or even setting a fire.

It is also necessary to ensure that the batteries are working and changed regularly.  Batteries should be replaced twice a year.  You can make this easy to remember by changing them once in the fall and once in the spring when you change your clocks.  If you do get a low battery warning alarm, you should change the batteries immediately.  Never pull the batteries out without putting new ones in right away.  Having smoke detectors with no batteries is the same as having no smoke detectors at all.  This is a very risky and dangerous thing to do.

Cleaning your smoke detectors is also a part of regular maintenance.  It should be done roughly every 6 months.  You should follow the directions in the instructions manual that came with your alarm.  Generally this should be done by removing the cover and very gently vacuuming the inside with a soft brush attachment for your vacuum.  You can also gently wipe it down with a cloth to remove any dirt and dust build up.  Pay special attention to the vent openings.  If these are clogged it will prevent the unit from detecting smoke properly.  After cleaning, make sure it is still working by doing a test.

Fire detectors do not last forever, even if you regularly clean them and change the batteries as recommended.  They only have a lifespan of 10 years.  After this time period they are more likely to fail, putting you and your home at risk.  It is never a good idea to play with fire safety.  If you are not sure how old your fire alarms are, have them replaced.  They are not very expensive and it is much better to be on the safe side.

If you have a smoke detector that keeps going off, do not disable the unit.  You should look into the cause.  Most likely you’ll find that the unit needs cleaning or is located too closely to a bathroom or an appliance like a stove.  They should be at least 10 feet away to prevent false alarms.  If your unit is electronically powered, it could also be due to an electrical problem and you should have an electrician take a look.

Following these recommendations will ensure that your family and home are as protected as possible.

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