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How long to smoke detectors last and how do I know if mine are working?
Mark in Prescott Valley

Mark, studies indicate that smoke alarms save more lives than any other fire prevention measure.  Smoke alarms provide the earliest warning of smoke and fire.  In a typical house fire; you have only three minutes to escape the home.  The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends replacing your alarms every 10 years.  Even if your alarms seems to be working properly and they are 10 years or older, more than likely they are not working at 100% capacity.  If they have turned yellow in color, that is another indication they are old and should be replaced.  Smoke detectors should have their batteries replaced yearly.  Some older homes will only have battery operated smoke detectors, while all newer homes have both battery and electric low-voltage power.  All electric wire smoke alarms are wired together so that if there is a problem, all alarms will sound together and not just the one in the room or area with the problem.  It is also important to vacuum around the edges of the smoke alarms monthly to remove any dust and insects, which can cause alarms to sound.  Building code requires a smoke alarm be installed in every bedroom, in all hallways outside of bedrooms, in high vaulted ceiling areas and on every level of the home.  It is important to know that not all smoke alarms are created equal.  Some are better at sensing slow-burning smoldering fires which smolder for hours before bursting into flame; these types of alarms are called photoelectric.  Sources of these fires may include cigarettes burning in couches or bedding.  Other alarms warn of fast, hot blazes which consume combustible materials rapidly and spread quickly.  These types of alarms are called Ionization.  Sources of these fires may include flammable liquids or paper burning in a waste container.  According to fire statistics, in 27 percent of fire fatalities, the victim was sleeping.  More than 4,000 people die each year in fires and more than 20,000 people are injured in fires yearly.  82% of all fire deaths occur in homes and nearly 1/3 of residential fires occur in homes without smoke alarms.

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