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  • Install and test your smoke, fire and carbon monoxide alarm at least once a month.
  • Fire can grow and spread quickly, having working smoke and fire alarms in your home can mean the difference between life and death. These life-saving devices are only effective when working properly.
  • Smoke, Fire & Carbon Monoxide Alarms that have dead batteries, disconnected, or missing will not be able to alert you to the dangers of smoke, fire and carbon monoxide.
  • Follow these tips to ensure that your smoke, fire and carbon monoxide alarms are installed correctly and tested regularly. Once the alarm sounds, you may have as few as two minutes to escape. By learning how to effectively use the alarm's early warning to get out safely, you'll reduce your risk of dying. 
  • Install alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, making sure that there is an alarm outside every separate sleeping area. New homes are required to have an alarm in every sleeping room and all alarms must be interconnected.
  • Hard-wired alarms operate on your household electrical current. They can be interconnected so that every alarm sounds regardless of the fire's location. This is an advantage in early warning, because it gives occupants extra time to escape if they are in one part of the home and an incident occurs in another part. Alarms that are hard-wired should have battery backups in case of a power outage, and should be installed by a qualified electrician.
  • If you sleep with bedroom doors closed, have a qualified electrician install interconnected alarms in each room so that when one alarm sounds, they all sound.
  • If you or someone in your home is deaf or hard of hearing, consider installing an alarm that combines flashing lights, vibration and/or sound.
  • Mount alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Ceiling mounted alarms should be installed at least four inches away from the nearest wall; wall-mounted alarms should be installed four to 12 inches away from the ceiling.
  • If you have ceilings that are pitched, install the alarm near the ceiling's highest point.
  • Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.
  • Never paint alarms. Paint, stickers, or other decorations could keep the alarms from working.
  • A life-saving test: check your alarms regularly.
  • Test your alarms once a month, following the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Replace the batteries in your alarm(s) once a year, or as soon as the alarm "chirps" warning you that the battery is low. Hint: schedule battery replacements for the same day you change your clocks from daylight savings time to standard time in the fall.
  • Never "borrow" a battery from an alarm. Alarms can't warn you of smoke, fire or carbon monoxide if their batteries are missing or have been disconnected.
  • Don't disable alarm(s) even temporarily. If your alarm is sounding "nuisance alarms," try relocating it farther from kitchens or bathrooms, where cooking fumes and steam can cause the alarm to sound.
  • Regularly vacuuming or dusting your alarm(s), following the manufacturer's instructions, can keep them working properly.
  • Smoke alarm(s) don't last forever. Replace yours once every 10 years. If you can't remember how old the alarm is, then it's probably time for a new one.
  • Consider installing smoke alarm(s) with "long-life" (10-year) batteries.
  • Plan regular drills to ensure that everyone knows exactly what to do when the smoke alarm(s) sounds. Hold a drill at night to make sure that sleeping family members awaken at the sound of the alarm(s). Some studies have shown that some children may not awaken to the sound of the alarm(s). Know what your child will do before an alarm sounds.
  • If you are building a new home or remodeling your existing home, consider installing an automatic home fire sprinkler system. Sprinklers and alarm(s) together cut your risk of dying in a home fire. 82% percent of homes are relative to having neither – a savings of thousands of lives a year.
  • For more information, read NFPA's smoke alarm fact sheet.

 Reproduced from NFPA's Fire Prevention Week Web site, www.firepreventionweek.org