Each year about 3000 people die in residential fires. Most die of smoke toxic gas inhalation and not of burns. Most deaths and injuries also occur at night when people are sleeping. Sometimes the difference between life and death is a good smoke alarm.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, smoke detectors should be installed on every floor of the house, including the basement. They should be placed about 6 to 8 inches below the ceiling.
Batteries should be replaced once a year, however some smoke detectors now come with batteries that are warranted for up to ten years. Most detectors will “chirp” when the battery is beginning to run out.
It is recommended that you test your smoke detector on a monthly basis.
Some fire departments offer free smoke detectors:
- In D.C., you can get a free smoke detector (one per home) from the D.C. Fire and Emergency Department by calling (202) 673-3331. Batteries are included.
- In Virginia, some stations do and some do not offer free smoke detectors. To find the number for your station and ask whether they do, visit the Virginia Fire Marshall website.
- In Maryland, contact the fire marshall for your locality. Prince George’s County fire officials will come to your home, conduct a fire inspection, and even install a free smoke detector for you.