The Minnesota Fire Code requires that every home have working smoke alarms.
Smoke alarms save lives. Most fatal fires occur at night when people are asleep. Often, victims never wake up. A working smoke alarm will detect smoke and sound an alarm to alert you, giving you precious time to escape.
Buying the Best Detector
There are many types of smoke alarms, each with different features. Alarms can be electrically connected, battery powered or a combination of both. This combination - and a pause feature to reduce nuisance alarms - is highly recommended.
How Many Do I Need?
One smoke detector is not enough. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and near sleeping areas. If you or your loved ones sleep with bedroom doors closed, install an alarm inside each bedroom.
Where to Install Smoke Alarms
Because smoke rises, you should place alarms on the ceiling. If you cannot do this, place them high up on a wall according to manufacturer's instructions. Most importantly, read the installation instructions that come with the alarm.
There are certain locations to avoid such as near bathrooms, heating appliances, windows, or close to ceiling fans.
- Don't place smoke detectors in kitchens, bathrooms, furnace rooms, workshops, garages, or in other spaces where temperatures can fall below 32°F, or exceed 100°F. These areas are subject to fumes, steam, dust and smoke, which can generate false alarms and contaminate the alarm.
- Don't install alarms where air movement can delay the alarm. This means they should be away from windows and at least 3 feet from warm or cold air ducts or return ducts. Also, don't install them between an air return and a bedroom door. Smoke alarms should not be located within 3 feet of doors to a kitchen or bathroom with tub or shower.
- Don't place alarms where it is inconvenient or unsafe to test them, like in tall foyers or high over a stairway.
- If smoke alarms are placed in a room with sloped ceilings, the alarm should be located on the high side of the ceiling.
- A smoke alarm installed in a stairwell must be located in such a way that smoke rising in the stairwell cannot be prevented from reaching the alarm by an intervening door or obstruction.
- A smoke alarm installed to detect a fire in the basement must be located close to the stairway leading to the floor above.
Smoke alarms should be mounted on the ceiling at least 4 inches from a wall or on a wall with the top of the alarm not less than 4 inches, or more than 12 inches, below the ceiling.
Maintaining Your Smoke Alarms
- Test your smoke alarms regularly. Every month, test your smoke alarms using the alarm test button. Once a year, use a smoke test by blowing out a match and letting the smoke roll over the alarm.
- Change your clock, change your battery. Install a new battery of the proper type at least once a year, or twice a year with daylight savings. If the low battery warning beeps, replace the battery immediately.
- Gently vacuum alarm every six months. Dust can clog a smoke alarm, so carefully vacuum the inside of a battery-powered unit using the soft bristle brush. If electrically connected, shut off the power and vacuum the outside vents only. Restore power and test unit when finished.
- Smoke alarms don't last forever. Smoke alarms do wear out, so if you think your alarms are more than 10 years old, replace them with new ones. Why not replace them with long-life smoke alarms that will eliminate the need for annual battery replacement and the potential hazard of dead batteries for up to 10 years?