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Smoke alarms: an integral part of your home fire escape plan

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an estimated three out of every five home fire fatalities in the United States occur in homes with no smoke detectors or no working smoke alarms. This type of loss can be prevented by correctly installing the right number of smoke detectors in the right areas of your home and ensuring that they’re in working order.

Smoke alarm safety tips

• Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms and areas prone to fire hazards (e.g. around the fireplace and kitchen).

• Depending on the model, mount smoke alarms high up on the wall or ceiling. Remember, smoke rises!

• Don’t install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ventilation ducts where drafts could interfere with their sensory capacity.   

• Test smoke alarms every month by pressing their “test” button. According to the NFPA, dead batteries account for one-quarter of smoke alarm failures.

• Change batteries twice a year. As a rule of thumb, batteries should be replaced at the same time that you change your clocks for daylight saving time. If your alarm emits a repetitive chirping sound, it means the batteries are running low.   

• Automatically replace any smoke detectors that are more than 10 years old. They’re way past their prime!

• Hire a professional to interconnect all smoke alarms for increased safety. This way, when one sounds, they all do.

• If you are, or someone you know is, hard of hearing, invest in special alarms that use strobe lights or bed shakers to alert occupants of a potential fire.

If the worst happens

Despite all the security measures taken to limit the risk of fire, no one is immune to such a tragedy. When the worst happens and your property is in flames, it’s important to act immediately. That is when a carefully planned and practiced evacuation plan comes into its own.

What is an evacuation plan?

An evacuation plan is a drawing that illustrates each floor of your home. To be effective, it must contain the following elements:

• all emergency exits (doors, windows)

• the routes leading to these exits (at least two per room)

• the designated assembly point outside the home

• the location of all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, as well as portable fire extinguishers

An evacuation plan has several objectives. It increases the chances of survival during a fire; it prevents panic and reckless actions; and it helps residents easily meet up after the evacuation. An evacuation plan has to be tailor-made for the occupants; children 12 years and under, seniors, and people with disabilities will definitely need assistance to reach an emergency exit.

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