Whether you call it “fall” or “autumn,” this time of the year is many people’s favorite. With cooler weather and fewer daylight hours, the transition from summer to winter means more time spent indoors and makes it a good time to think about fire safety. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has designated the second week in October as Fire Prevention Week in its bid to eliminate death, injury, property loss, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards. Regardless of the date on the calendar, it’s never a bad time to educate yourself on ways to keep your family safe from the dangers of fire. For the third year in a row, NFPA is focusing on smoke alarms. This year is the last one of a multi-year campaign deemed necessary due to alarming statistics such as the fact that three of every five home fire deaths in the United States result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Almost 40 percent of the fire deaths that occur are in homes with no smoke alarms. An average of 7 people die in U.S. home fires every day, largely caused by cooking equipment, heating equipment, and smoking. Last year alone, one home structure fire was reported every 86 seconds. The 2016 Fire Prevention Week theme is “Don’t Wait, Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.” This follows the 2015 theme about making sure bedrooms have smoke alarms (“Hear the Beep Where You Sleep”) and the 2014 focus on smoke alarm testing (“Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month”). Working smoke alarms can dramatically reduce the loss of life from fire, regardless of the cause.
- The typical life expectancy of smoke alarms is 10 years. After a decade, the sensors in smoke alarms can begin to lose their sensitivity.
- A smoke alarm’s age can be determined by looking on the back or side where the date of manufacture can be found. Smoke alarms should be replaced 10 years from that date — not the date of purchase or installation.
- Install alarms on every level of the home, including in the basement. Bigger homes may need more.
- Smoke detectors have test buttons – use them once a month to be sure the alarms are working.
- A smoke alarm should be mounted on the ceiling or high on a wall.
- People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use special alarms that use strobe lights or bed shakers.