Time to Check Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

October 15, 2019

Have you checked the alarms in your home lately? For winter safety, it’s time.

Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are silent devices so they’re easy to forget. (Unless you burn the popcorn – then you’ll hear from your smoke alarm! But making sure they’re in working order is important for the health and safety of your family.

Smoke Alarms

The U.S. Fire Administration outlines three things to do to make sure your smoke alarms are doing the job:

  •  Change batteries regularly.
  •  Test devices monthly.
  •  Replace devices every 10 years.

The USFA recommends changing the batteries in both battery-powered and hardwired smoke alarms once or twice a year. (Hardwired units have backup batteries.) An easy way to remember is to change the batteries on a significant date, such as your birthday. Or consider changing the batteries whenever you change the time on your clocks for daylight savings.

Test smoke alarms once a month by pressing the test button on each device. (Don’t forget your earplugs!) If no alarm sounds or if the alarm is weak, change the batteries and test again.

Fire alarms eventually wear out and should be replaced every 10 years. If you’re not sure how long yours have been around, check the date on the back of the device.

And be aware of new building codes. In Washington State, new homes must have a smoke alarm installed in each bedroom, in hallways or common areas near sleeping quarters, and in basements.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

You may have a number of CO alarms in your home to detect this dangerous, invisible, odorless gas that results from the incomplete burning of fuel in cooking appliances, home heating systems, or cars stored in an attached garage.

Because the effects of CO can be harmful or deadly, it’s important to install and maintain CO alarms in your home.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says to:

  •  Install alarms in recommended areas.
  •  Test devices monthly.
  •  Check batteries.

Alarms should be installed on each level of your home and outside sleeping areas (as well as areas otherwise required by local regulations and laws) and installed according to directions from the manufacturer. At the start of 2013, CO alarms were required in all existing living structures, including apartments and condos, hotels, and single-family homes.

Test devices by pressing and holding a test button on the device. You may need to hold it down for a full 20 seconds before the alarm sounds.

Low batteries can sometimes cause the alarm to sound. If the alarm goes off, first check for low batteries and replace them if necessary. If the alarm continues to sound after you have changed the batteries, call the fire department.

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