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Fire Prevention Week 2010: Smoke Alarms, A Sound You Can Live With

Smoke Alarms

How many smoke detectors do you have in your house? Do you have one on every floor? Do you have one in every bedroom? Do you know how many you should have? And, hey, while we’re at this inquisition, when was the last time you checked your smoke detector batteries?

This year the theme of Fire Prevention Week is: Smoke Alarms, A Sound You Can Live With. And it’s true. Each year in the US, nearly 3,000 people die in house fires.

  • In 2003-2006, roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from home fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
    • No smoke alarms were present in 40% of the home fire deaths.
    • In 23% of the home fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound.
  • In more than half of the reported home fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate even though the fire was large enough, batteries were missing or disconnected. Nuisance alarms were the leading reason for disconnected alarms.

The point? Having working smoke detectors cuts the risk of dying in a fire in half. The facts above are somewhat alarming, however. You should never remove a battery just because the smoke alarm is annoying you. Maybe it’s time for a new smoke alarm. According to the NFPA site & their quick stats, in a 2008 telephone survey, only 12% knew that smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. How old are your smoke detectors in your house? If you don’t know the answer at all, you need to replace them. Yesterday.

For those that don’t test their smoke alarm batteries every month, I want to ask you: have you been out of the house for longer than 12 hours recently? Even if you’re using a good quality brand battery, it can die quickly. If you’ve been out of the house for an extended period of time, you may never have heard your warning beeps. Perhaps your smoke detector malfunctioned and it’s simply not working up there on the wall. How will you know unless you test it. Do it now. I’ll wait. (Just ask FourAgainstTwo about this very topic.)

Get your kids involved in the fire safety this week. Either have them watch you test the smoke detector batteries or have them help you. Explain why it’s important. Then download Sparky’s smoke alarm safety sheet and hang it on your fridge to serve as a visual reminder to check your batteries each month. Then download the escape grid and make an escape route for your house in the event of a fire. Sparky also has a great website where you can help your kids learn more about fire safety.

I share this information with you because it is important. Our department responded to a fire last week that turned out to be fatal. The cause was an electrical malfunction in the wall. You can do all of the right things — never leave candles burning, have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, get your furnace checked out before turning it on — but you’re simply never exempt from a house fire. There are things you simply cannot control. As such, you need to be prepared to keep your family — your most treasured possession — as safe as possible. Smoke detectors are they key to doing so.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, I’ll be sharing some new kids’ firefighter themed book reviews. On Friday, I will be hosting a giveaway of those three books that will last through the month of October. I decided to extend the giveaway all month in hopes that people would really get the message that smoke detectors are important. So, tune in all week for some great fire books and general reminders to be fire safe.

If you want to watch videos, share them with your school (or blog readers) or just gain more information, visit the National Fire Protection Association website. Don’t forget to check out the Fire Prevention Week blog for pictures from fire departments around the country as well as Sparky sightings (which could be a fun fire-slash-geography lesson for the kids).

2 replies on “Fire Prevention Week 2010: Smoke Alarms, A Sound You Can Live With”

Thanks for the reminder! I need to check batteries and rehang/replace some smoke detectors. I need to replace our carbon monoxide detector too. This is very important stuff to remember. I was taught back in school to replace batteries in smoke alarms twice a year with the time change. It’s a good rule of thumb. Today is Fire Safety day at Kiddo’s school as well.

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