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When it's time to set the clocks forward in Spring or backward in the Fall for Daylight Savings Time, fire safety officials recommend checking that your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order. Batteries don't last forever. Vacuum them to remove dust, replace batteries and test the alarms. This small effort could make all the difference in an emergency.

The life expectancy of smoke alarms is generally 8-10 years, after which point their sensors can begin to lose sensitivity. The test button only confirms that the battery, electronics, and alert system are working; it doesn’t mean that the smoke sensor is working. Over time dust gathers in detectors which diminishes sensitivity. You can test sensors using an aerosol can of smoke alarm test spray that simulates smoke. Both hard-wired and battery-operated detectors need to be checked and replaced as needed.

If your alarms are over 10 years, why take a chance? It's recommended to replace all detectors at the same time to ensure that you're using up-to-date technology throughout your home.  It's also easier to keep track of when it's time to replace them.

Most fatal fires occur at night. Thousands of lives are saved each year simply because people have working smoke detectors to alert them. Working smoke detectors decrease the risk of dying in a house fire by nearly 50%. Many fire deaths are caused by inhaling the toxic smoke and gases emitted in the states of a fire, so early warning can make all the difference between life and death. 

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned. Exposure to CO can produce headache, dizziness, nausea, fainting, and at high levels, can cause unconsciousness and death. Hundreds of people die accidentally each year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances (EPA data). Therefore, knowing the symptoms and having an alarm to alert you to a CO buildup can be the difference in saving lives.

smoke & carbon monoxided alarms

Smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector requirements can vary from town to town, so it's a good idea to check with your local fire department regarding local regulations for fire and smoke detector placement and type. Every home needs working smoke alarms to provide an early warning.

Smoke alarms installed in all bedrooms, hallways that lead to sleeping areas, basements, and each additional level of your home. Generally, smoke alarms should be mounted on the ceiling 4” from the wall; wall mounts should be 4-12” from the ceiling. Do not install near windows, vents or other draft areas.

Carbon monoxide detector alarms are required to be located on every level of a home or dwelling unit including habitable portions of basements and attics. On levels with sleeping areas, the alarms must be placed within 10 feet of the bedroom doors. 

prepare and practice your escape plan

If a fire were to occur, how would you get out of your home? You should have an evacuation plan with at least two escape routes. Make sure that everyone in your family knows the routes and practices how to crawl low under smoke. Determine a location where to meet outside so that you'll know everyone is out. 

Fire officials also recommend

  • Testing smoke alarms monthly by pushing the 'test' button, which activates the alarm.
  • Install fire extinguishers in or near the kitchen
  • Preventative house cleaning to reduce or eliminate fire hazards


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The information provided in these articles are only general descriptions and should not be relied upon as complete, correct or accurate for your specific situation. All coverage informaiton is subject to policy provisions, endorsements and may be  subject to your meeting underwriting qualifications. Murphy Insurance Agency is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other noninsurance professional services. Consult an appropriate professional for advice regarding your own situation.