A properly maintained smoke alarm will work forever, right? Changing batteries at least once a year is necessary, but I am asking about the smoke alarm itself. Actually, the answer to the question is “No.” All hard-wired or battery-operated smoke alarms installed more than 10 years ago should be replaced now!
A smoke alarm's lifespan is 10 years, which means that any smoke alarm over 10 years old is deemed unreliable. Part of smoke alarm maintenance is knowing when to replace the units. The few minutes it takes to replace a smoke alarm can save the lives of roommates, family members, neighbors and firefighters. How do you know if your smoke alarm is 10 years old or not? Any smoke alarm manufactured since 2000 must have the year of manufacture clearly and boldly identified on the unit. If you don't see a year of manufacture, it is more than 10 years old.
More than 3,000 people die in home fires each year and the majority of them have no working smoke alarms. With all the reminders about smoke alarm installation and maintenance, it seems like most of those deaths could be prevented with working smoke alarms. Smoke alarms save lives!
Every residence should be equipped with both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or dual-sensor smoke alarms, which contain both technologies listed above. It may sound confusing, but read the small print when you purchase your next smoke alarm. It is worth the time it takes to get the right type of smoke alarms.
Properly working smoke alarms should be installed and maintained both inside and outside of the sleeping areas of your home, and there should be a minimum of one on every level of your home, including the basement. Interconnected smoke alarms are best because if one sounds, they all sound. Since most fires happen during the night, it is important that they are loud enough to wake sleeping family members.
Test smoke alarms every month, and bring the family along. It is important that all family members know the sound of a smoke alarm when activated so there is no question about where the noise came from. Change the batteries once a year. You can use an easy date to remember to change all the smoke alarm batteries, like your birthday, New Year's Day or when you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time.
Smoke alarms are a great part of your home escape plan, but they do need to be properly located, tested and the batteries need to be replaced annually. Take the time to draw up a home fire escape plan with your family and practice it twice a year. This will help to make the behavior easier to remember when it may actually be needed. If you need help with your home fire escape plan or have any questions about it, feel free to contact any of your Livonia firefighters for assistance.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.