Testing Smoke Alarms Saves Lives of Family Members

July 16, 2014

Since more and more people are using smoke detectors in their homes, the number of deaths and serious injuries from fires has lessened. It is possible to lower the chances of death or injury by using these inexpensive devices in every room. However, it is crucial to ensure they are installed properly and tested frequently to verify they work correctly. Like any other device, smoke alarms can fail over time. Follow these simple steps to make sure they are working properly.

Alert family members or household residents of a test.
It is a good idea to let everyone know the alarms will be going off. This may also be a good time to conduct a fire drill to test the preparedness and knowledge of everyone in the home. When doing a fire drill, be sure to instruct everyone what to do and where to meet. For a smoke detector that has a hardwired connection to a security system, contact the security company before conducting the test to let them know it is not a real emergency. Having the fire department show up for a false alarm can be an expensive mistake.

Test the loudness of the alarm
The best way to do this is to have another person go to the furthest location in the home away from the alarm to listen for it. Although it is best to have a smoke alarm in every room, it is important to make sure they can be heard in other rooms as well. Some people sleep deeply and may not hear an alarm that is too soft. To test the sound, push the test button and hold it down for several seconds. If there is no beep and the alarm runs on batteries, try replacing the batteries and then conduct a test. Smoke alarms that do not work with new batteries will likely need to be replaced.

Test the detection capabilities
In addition to testing the volume, it is important to test the unit's detection capabilities. To do this, buy a can of smoke detector test aerosol. Most major home improvement stores sell this product, and it is also found in many hardware stores. The product is inexpensive but very useful in pinpointing faulty alarms. Spray a small amount of the material into the detector. Wait for about five to 10 seconds. If there is no response, look at the opening of it to see if there is dust or debris clogging it. Clean it if necessary, and try replacing the batteries when cleaning is not sufficient to fix the issue. If these steps do not work, the alarm will likely need to be replaced. After conducting this test, the alarm will usually shut off on its own. If it does not, use a vacuum hose to draw out the test aerosol. Push the silence button if the alarm has one.

Homeowners should test their smoke alarms every month to ensure they work. Many injuries and deaths that occur are due to faulty alarms or even alarms that have dead batteries. Testing takes only a few minutes. Smoke alarms, batteries and test aerosol are cheap enough that they are well worth the investment to protect the lives of everyone in the home. To learn more about fires, safety and insurance, discuss concerns with an agent.

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