Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Public Safety

Smoke Detectors

Safety Tips for Installing Your Smoke Detectors and Keeping Them Working Properly:

The first step in escaping a fire in your home is to plan ahead. You can do this by installing smoke detectors in your home and testing them at least once a month. You can do this by using the "test button" on the alarm. Never test the alarm by using an open flame, this could result in you being burned or starting a fire. A smoke detector will alert members of your family to the presence of smoke or fire before it is too late.

  • The number of detectors you need depends upon the size of your home. A smoke detector should be placed outside each sleeping area (for new homes it may be required to install smoke detectors inside each bedroom) and on every level of existing homes, including the basement and mechanical areas. On floors without bedrooms, install detectors in or near living areas, such as dens and living rooms. Detectors in dining rooms, utility rooms and hallways will provide added protection.
  • There should be a smoke alarm in every bedroom or near every sleeping area.
  • Mount the smoke alarms high on ceilings or walls. If you are installing ceiling mounted alarms, the alarm should be at least four inches away from the nearest wall. Wall mounted alarms should be installed four to twelve inches away from the ceiling.
  • Do not install smoke alarms near windows, ducts or outside doors where drafts might interfere with their operation.
  • Do not paint or decorate your smoke detector, which may interfere with its operation.
  • The batteries in your smoke detector should be replaced once a year. In addition, the battery should be replaced as soon as the alarm "chirps". This is a warning that that battery is low. If the detector does not respond to the recommended test procedure (usually by pressing the "test button"), change the battery. If it still does not perform then replace it.
  • Both battery-operated and electric smoke detectors become less effective with age. It is recommended that every ten years the smoke detector be replaced.
  • Regular vacuuming or dusting of the alarm can help keep it working properly.
  • Never borrow a battery from a smoke detector.
  • Make sure that everyone in your home knows what the smoke detector alarm sound and knows what do in case it should sound.
  • If you have questions about the best places to install detectors, contact your local fire department for advice. Many departments will conduct home smoke detector inspections for free.

If you live in an apartment, check to make sure that your unit has a smoke detector. Follow the steps above to insure that the detector is in good working order. If your apartment does not have, smoke detectors then speak to your landlord about installing one. Also, familiarize your family with the building layout, so that you know where the fire alarms pull stations are located throughout the building and know where exit routes such as stairs are located. In case of fire use the stairs, never the elevator.

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