As we enter the colder season here in North Dakota, we thought it was a good time to talk about smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Proper use of these appliances can be a literal matter of life or death. It’s important to ensure you are using yours correctly, in the event of a house fire or carbon monoxide leak.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shares a variety of information and tips about the placement of smoke alarms and detectors. They note the following:
- Mount your smoke detectors high on the wall or ceiling, as smoke rises. Wall-mounted alarms should be no more than 12 inches or closer to the ceiling.
- With pitched ceilings, smoke alarms should be within three feet of the peak, but not within the peak’s apex.
- Install more than one smoke alarm – one inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the house (including the basement).
- For levels without bedrooms, install your alarm in the living room/family room or near the stairway to the upper level (or both).
- In the basement, install smoke alarms on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs.
- For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms. This can be done through hard-wiring or wireless technology.
- Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed on all levels, and outside of sleeping areas.
- Only use smoke alarms that have the “label of a recognized testing laboratory.”
To this list, we would add these two pieces of advice:
- Change out your batteries every year, even if you don’t hear the “beep” indicating you need one. Remember that even hard-wired smoke detectors have batteries in them.
- Check the recommended replacement date. Most manufacturers say you should get a new unit every 10 years. Make sure your is up-to-date.
The NFPA also notes:
There are two types of smoke alarms – ionization and photoelectric. An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types of alarms or combination ionization-photoelectric alarms, also known as dual sensor smoke alarms, are recommended.
It’s also important to know where NOT to put a smoke detector. X-Sense Products lists the areas where you should avoid putting smoke and carbon monoxide alarms:
- Bathrooms. Bathrooms aren’t good spots for smoke alarms, as the steam from a hot bath or shower can frequently trigger the detector and cause a false alarm. Additionally, the moisture from the bathroom can damage the detector over time, rendering it useless. Try to avoid placing smoke detectors within 20 feet of a bathroom.
- Near fans and vents. Placing smoke detectors near fans is also a bad idea. The airflow caused by fans and vents can blow away the smoke, causing the alarm to fail.
- Ceiling corners. Ceiling corners are often the last place in a room to fill up with smoke – which is typically too late. Keeping your smoke detector away from the corners of the room can give you more time to get out in the event of a fire.
- Windows and sliding doors. Drafts from outside can direct smoke away from the detector.
- Near cooking appliances. Your oven and stove emit heat and smoke. Placing your smoke detector in these areas can cause false alarms. Install smoke detectors at least 10 feet away from appliances.
They also note you should avoid putting smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in furnace and water heater closets, near washing machines or dishwashers, garages (use heat detectors instead), unfinished attics, or near fluorescent lights.
What if I have a space heater or generator?
You should also take extra care if you use a space heater. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates “that portable heaters are involved in about 1,700 fires per year, resulting in about 80 deaths and 160 injuries annually.” Ensure the room(s) in which you use a space heater have proper smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, placed at least 10 feet away from the heater to avoid false alarms.
You must be equally cautious with generators, used often in harsh North Dakota winters. Per the CPSC:
Most CO deaths associated with portable generators occur in the colder months of the year, between November and February. The exhaust contains poisonous carbon monoxide, which can kill in minutes. Use portable generators outside only and place them at least 20 feet from the home. Never use a generator inside a home, basement, shed or garage.
From 2010-2020, CPSC estimates that more than 700 people died from CO poisoning associated with generators, over 50 in 2020.
As you prepare for the colder weather, you should also be aware of any potential product recalls. Check your safety equipment against the CPSC’s list of recalled products here. The CPSC states that if a product has been recalled, stop using it immediately and contact the recalling company.
You should also test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors once a month to ensure they are working properly. Keeping all your equipment in working order can minimize the risk of household fires and severe burn injuries.
If you or a loved one were injured in a fire due to defective smoke detectors or space heaters, the skilled attorneys at Larson Law Firm can help. Get in touch with us today to talk about your case and learn about how you may be eligible for compensation for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, call our offices or complete our contact form today. We handle injury cases on a contingency fee basis. We have offices in Fargo, Bismarck, and Minot.