How to Protect Your Family from a Deadly House Fire

This past weekend a 2 year old toddler died in a tragic fire in Hudson County. His father, who tried to save him, was badly burned and is in critical condition.

The fire is still under investigation but in many cases a lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can turn a fire into a deadly situation. Having a smoke detector on each floor could have alerted the family in time to evacuate the home and the loss of a young child’s life could have been avoided.

A functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detector is being credited for saving a family in Columbia County last week.

Here are some key points and suggestions on the importance of having working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Almost two-thirds of reported deaths caused by home fires from 2003 to 2006 resulted from fires in homes that lacked working smoke alarms.
  • Older homes are more likely to lack an adequate number of smoke alarms because they were built before requirements increased.
  • In 23% of home fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound. Sixty percent of these failures were caused by the power supplies having been deliberately removed due to false alarms.
  • Every year in the United States, about 3,000 people lose their lives in residential fires. Most of these deaths are caused by smoke inhalation, rather than as a result of burns.

Placement of Smoke Detectors

Each locality will have different guidelines on where to place smoke detectors but the following guidelines should be considered.

  • on the ceiling or wall outside of each separate sleeping area in the vicinity of bedrooms;
  • in each bedroom, as most fires occur during sleeping hours;
  • in the basement, preferably on the ceiling near the basement stairs;
  • in the garage, due to all the combustible materials commonly stored there;
  • on the ceiling or on the wall with the top of the detector between 6 to 12 inches from the ceiling; and/or
  • in each story within a building, including basements and cellars, but not crawlspaces or uninhabited attics.

Smoke alarms should not be installed in the following locations:

  • near heating or air-conditioning supply and return vents;
  • near a kitchen appliance;
  • near windows, ceiling fans or bathrooms equipped with a shower or tub;
  • where ambient conditions, including humidity and temperature, are outside the limits specified by the manufacturer’s instructions;
  • within unfinished attics or garages, or in other spaces where temperatures can rise or fall beyond the limits set by the manufacturer;
  • where the mounting surface could become considerably warmer or cooler than the rest of the room, such as an inadequately insulated ceiling below an unfinished attic; or
  • in dead-air spots, such as the top of a peaked roof or a ceiling-to-wall corner.

Here are some additional tips to ensure the safety of your family:

  • Parents should stage periodic night-time fire drills to assess whether their children will awaken from the alarm and respond appropriately.
  • Never disable a smoke alarm. Use the alarm’s silencing feature to stop nuisance or false alarms triggered by cooking smoke or fireplaces.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly, and replace their batteries at least twice per year. Change the batteries when you change your clocks for Daylight Saving Time. Most models emit a chirping noise when the batteries are low to alert the homeowner that they need replacement.
  • Smoke alarms should be replaced when they fail to respond to testing, or every 10 years, whichever is sooner. The radioactive element in ionization smoke alarms will decay beyond usability within 10 years.
  • If you have any questions or concerns related to smoke alarms or fire dangers in the home, consult with a licensed home inspector during your next scheduled inspection.
  • Smoke detectors should be replaced if they become damaged or wet, are accidentally painted over, are exposed to fire or grease, or are triggered without apparent cause.
  • Note the sound of the alarm. It should be distinct from other sounds in the house, such as the telephone, doorbell and pool alarm.

In summary, smoke alarms are invaluable, life-saving appliances when they are installed properly and adequately maintained. Please test your alarms today and follow these guidelines to protect your family in case of a house fire and let today’s tragedy be a reminder for us all on how precious life is and how it must not be taken for granted.

If you are looking to buy a quality smoke and carbon monoxide detector here is a link to the best one on the market today- the Nest Protect 2nd generation Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector.

Reference: InterNACHI