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Tips for parents to prepare their home and family for fire safety

Published on 8 October 2010
Prepare a safe house for safety of your family
Safe kids Pennsylvania provides safety tips for parents during National Fire Prevention Week

National Fire Prevention Week is reminder to parents -- Prepare home and family for Fire Safety.

Many people think a fire won't happen to them. But what happens if it does? And what if there are children in the home? Will they know how to react to the sound of a smoke alarm? October 3-9 is National Fire Prevention Week and what better time for parents to prepare their home and their families in case of a home fire.

"Tragically, about 436 children ages 14 and under die each year nationally in residential fires,” said Allyson Fulton of Safe Kids Pennsylvania. "A properly functioning smoke alarm will cut the risk of dying in a residential fire by nearly 50 percent. Yet, smoke alarms are either not working or present in approximately 75 percent of the homes where a child has died in a residential fire."

Safe Kids Pennsylvania offers these "Tips for Parents" to prepare their home and their children in case of a residential fire.

The Right Way to Use Smoke Alarms

  • Install smoke alarms in your home on every level and near each sleeping area or bedroom. Test them once a month, replace the batteries at least once a year and install new alarms every ten years. (Ten-year lithium alarms do not require battery changes each year.)
  • Familiarize your child with the sound of your smoke alarm. Plan and practice several escape routes from each room of the home and identify a safe outside meeting place. Practicing an escape plan may help children, who can become frightened and confused, to escape to safety.
  • Follow the tips to keep your home and family safe in case of residential fire

    Interconnect the alarms if possible so that when one sounds they all sound. If you cannot hardwire them, you can buy alarms that will broadcast a signal to each other.
  • Place smoke alarms on ceilings or high on walls. Smoke rises, so alarms should be placed as high and as close to the middle of the room as possible.
  • Do not place the smoke alarm on a wall that faces the outside if you live in a poorly insulated or mobile home. The temperature of the wall may vary depending upon the season and cause the alarm to malfunction.
  • Place the alarm away from cooking or furnace fumes, fireplace smoke and dust. This will reduce unwanted alarms. The best location is at least three feet away from forced-air supply registers and not near windows or exterior doors since they can inhibit the alarm's ability to sense smoke.
  • For the best protection against different types of fires, consider installing both ionization alarms (better at sensing flaming fires) and photoelectric alarms (better at sensing slow, smoky fires) or dual sensor alarms.
  • If someone in your home is hearing-impaired, there are smoke alarms that use strobe lights.

Smoke Alarm gives few extra minutes to save lives

How to Maintain Your Smoke Alarm

Most smoke alarms currently on the market are battery powered. However, 10-year lithium cell-powered smoke alarms are now available, eliminating the need to replace dead or missing batteries. Safe Kids USA offers the following guidelines for the proper maintenance of battery-powered and lithium smoke alarms:

  • Test all alarms once a month. Testing is a simple process that can be done several ways. Most models have built-in test buttons that activate the alarm. For those alarms without built-in test buttons, follow the manufacturer's guidelines for testing and maintaining your smoke alarm.
  • Vacuum your alarms regularly. Regular cleaning is imperative. Dirt can "confuse" the alarm and lead to false alarms or impair its functioning.
  • Replace the batteries at least once a year. Even if your battery-operated alarm has never sounded, it is important to replace the batteries. In most battery-operated models, a "chirping" noise will sound for approximately 30 days when the battery needs replacing, but it is best to replace the batteries annually.
  • Replace your smoke alarm, regardless of the type, at least every 10 years. Smoke alarms deteriorate over time, so they need to be replaced.
  • If you have a problem with nuisance alarms, there are a few options you can try:
    • Vacuum the smoke alarm more often.
    • Move the smoke alarm farther away from the nuisance source, which is often cooking fumes.
    • Switch to a photoelectric unit or an ionization unit with a hush button.

Safe Kids Pennsylvania works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children ages 1 to 14. Safe Kids Pennsylvania is a member of Safe Kids USA, a national network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. Safe Kids Pennsylvania is led by the Center for Schools and Communities.

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