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Smoke alarms are often silent until you need them most. In order for them to blare their normally muted tone, it’s important to check on them periodically. While you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, here are some common guidelines for home smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms can have a failure rate of 30% after 10 years. Therefore, it’s important to replace them before that time, or after their expiry dates. When they fail, it’s often because of dust build-up, so get a small ladder and vacuum them. Another common cause of failure is dead batteries. Even if they are only used as a source of backup power, be sure to replace them yearly, or more. A good time to check your alarms and change the batteries is at Daylight Saving Time, twice per year.

Although new houses must meet current building codes for the number and location of fire alarms, older houses may not. In that case, be sure that there is one alarm on every level of your home, and outside of each bedroom area.

While you’re at it, take a few minutes to review your family’s fire safety plan to ensure that everyone is aware of escape routes (all exit windows and doors for every level) and outdoors meeting location in the event of a fire.  Be sure that your children know who to dial in the event of a fire as well as their home address so that they can communicate it to emergency response operators in the event they need to make that phone call.

Ensure smoke alarm maintenance and fire safety plan review is on your yearly home maintenance checklist to be prepared for an emergency.

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Keith Langlois

RHI | NHI

Registered Home Inspector
National Home Inspector
Licensed Electrician