Why Are Smoke Detectors So Important? 

There is no doubt that smoke detectors save lives. Every year in the United States, about 2,000 people lose their lives in residential fires. Without the early warning shrill of a smoke detector alerting homeowners to the smoke, that number could be much higher. 
According to the National Fire Protection Association, the vast majority of fatal fires occur in the overnight hours when homeowners are fast asleep, unaware that there is smoke or fire filling their home. There is short window in which to escape. Smoke detectors stand guard all night, ready to alert families of the danger of smoke during their sleeping hours. 
Sadly, there are still homes that do not have working smoke alarms. Worse yet, some homes have them but they have run out of batteries, or are not functioning properly. Statistics tell us that about two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. 

What Are Smoke Detectors? 
Smoke detectors are fire protection devices mounted on the ceilings in kitchens, bedrooms, and stairwells of residential homes. Since smoke rises, the ceiling is the optimal location to alert families of the build up of smoke. 
There are two common types of smoke detectors to choose from: photoelectric and ionization. When using a photoelectric smoke detector, a beam of light within the detector can sense any smoke in the air. In the case of an ionized smoke detector, a chamber with a small electrical current detects the level of ions in the air. As the ions change the smoke-filled air, the electrical current drops and the alarm will sound.
Where Should Smoke Alarms Be Installed? 
The ultimate goal, when choosing the placement of smoke detectors, is to maximize the amount of time a family has to escape the dangers of a fire. Therefore, it is recommended to have smoke detectors on each floor of a home. They should be placed away from rooms that create steam, such as a bathroom. 
The National Fire Alarm Signaling Code requires that smoke detectors be installed inside every sleep room as well as outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home. If your home is large, additional smoke alarms may be required. 

Smoke Alarm Maintenance Tips 
Having smoke alarms installed in the proper locations is only part of the way to protect your family. Maintaining them throughout the year is also vitally important. 
To properly maintain your smoke detector the National Fire Association suggests the following tips:

Vacuum the smoke detector to remove dust, cobwebs, and debris. 
Test the detectors at least twice a year. 
Change the batteries (if that is the type you have) at least twice a year. 
Inspect, at least twice a year, for pests or any damage that make them malfunction. 

When was the last time you reviewed your fire escape routes or tested your smoke detectors? This spring may be the perfect time to ensure that your smoke detectors are in good working condition to give you and your family ample time to escape a fire in your home. 
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