Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Must Haves For Your Home


When thinking of the safety of everyone living in your home, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector in your home?
  • Are the detectors in working condition?
  • Are the detectors located in the proper place?
  • Do your children know what the alarm sounds like?
  • Does your family have a plan for what to do when the smoke or carbon monoxide alarms go off?

Every home should be equipped with both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. These relatively inexpensive tools are must-haves for your home and could save lives. By installing both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, you are reducing you and your family’s risk of injury and death.

Smoke Can Kill

The National Fire Protection Association reports that 3 out of 5 fire deaths occur in homes that either do not have smoke alarms or have smoke alarms that aren’t working.

Smoke is silent and spreads very quickly. The purpose of a smoke alarm is to warn you that smoke is occupying your home and that a fire has possibly started somewhere. Acting as soon as the alarm sounds allows you to get to a safe location outside the home and hopefully prevent injury or death.

If you have time and are safe enough to do so, close the door of the room where the fire is located. A closed door could help stop the spread of smoke, heat, and fire, and possibly keep it contained to that room.

The smoke from a fire can be lethal. More fire related deaths are caused by smoke inhalation than burns. Breathing in smoke from a fire can affect a person so rapidly that they become overwhelmed and are unable to access an exit. The longer a person is inhaling smoke, their oxygen levels decrease and the more severe the effects become. An individual breathing normal, outside air will have an oxygen level of 21%. As their oxygen level decreases to 17%, an individual’s judgment and coordination becomes impaired. A person will experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue at a 12% oxygen level, and become unconscious when their oxygen level reaches 9%. Smoke inhalation becomes fatal when oxygen levels reach 6%.

Did you know that there are special alarms for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing? The alarms use strobe lights or can shake your bed to alert you.

Carbon Monoxide is Deadly

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, tasteless, and odorless gas that is created when fuels such as kerosene, gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane do not burn properly. Carbon monoxide enters your body as you breathe. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be confused with the flu, food poisoning, and other illnesses. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. A person can be poisoned by small amounts of carbon monoxide over a long period of time or by a large amount of carbon monoxide over a short period of time.

Reduce the Risk of Carbon Monoxide

  • If you have fuel-burning equipment in your home such as fireplaces, furnaces, wood stoves, coal stoves, space heaters, and portable heaters, have them inspected annually by a professional.
  • Make sure that the vents of your dryer, stove, furnace, and fireplace remain free of ice, snow, dirt, leaves, and debris.
  • Never use your oven as a heat source to warm your home.
  • Do not use grills or generators inside. Make sure that they are kept and ran outside away from all doors, windows, and vent openings.

  • Never leave a vehicle running in a garage with the garage door closed.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, 9 out of 10 reported non-fire carbon monoxide incidents occur in the home.

Where to Install Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

  • On the ceiling or high on a wall

  • Next to any bedroom or sleeping area

  • On every level of the home if it is a multi-story house
  • In the basement
  • Not near a heat source such as a fireplace
  • Away from the kitchen (at least 10 feet from a stove)
Cooking can set off a smoke alarm. If this happens, simply fan the cooking smoke away from the alarm and it will stop automatically when the smoke is out of range of the detector.

Maintaining Your Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detectors

It is recommended that the batteries in a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector are replaced every year even if the alarm is not beeping to indicate a dead battery. A good way to remember to change the battery is to do it every time it is daylight savings time.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested monthly by pressing the test button to make sure the alarm is still working. If an alarm sound is not made while testing, check the battery. If the alarm is still not working with a new battery, replace the smoke detector immediately.

Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced every 10 years.

Get everything you need in one alarm by purchasing a 10-year Lithium Battery Smoke and Carbon Monoxide combination alarm. You’ll only have to install ONE alarm and won’t have to worry about changing the battery for 10 years!

What To Do If Your Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Alarms Sound

  • Move outdoors to fresh air.
  • Alert everyone in the home and instruct them to exit the home.
    • Children are heavy sleepers and may not hear an alarm if sleeping or napping. Don’t rely on them to wake up on their own.

  • Call 911 to report the carbon monoxide alarm to the Fire Department.
  • Do not re-enter the home. Stay outside until emergency personnel arrives to check the carbon monoxide levels in your home.

Make sure that everyone living in the home can recognize the difference between the sound of the smoke alarm and the carbon monoxide alarm.
Check out this article for more information on how to protect your home from house fires, The #1 Disaster in the Home.

Sources: Smoke Alarms, The Consequence of Fire



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Sasha, mother of one, never has a dull moment with her wild child and prefers it that way! Previously a law enforcement officer, she is now the spokesperson for a fire department. Sasha lives in Daytona Beach, Florida and enjoys running, shopping, and pool parties.

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