Everyone is aware of the importance of having a working smoke detector in the home, the number of people that place them properly is considerably lower than you might think. The reasoning is mainly because people tend to forget what the primary purpose of smoke detectors are – to awaken members of the household should a fire occur during sleeping hours, and to allow adequate time for escape without injury. While a single smoke detector in the home is the minimum, it is smart to have several smoke detectors placed strategically throughout the home for maximum protection. In fact, several states have laws that require new housing to have a smoke detector installed in every bedroom.
In a multi-level home, there should be at least one smoke detector installed on every level, either on the ceiling or on a wall about one foot below the ceiling. It is important that smoke detectors be positioned away from corners where walls meet ceilings, because the flow of smoke in a fire may stay away from the detectors and they may not sound an alarm. The bedrooms of children, the disabled and the elderly are especially in need of a smoke detector placed inside the bedroom, simply because in an emergency situation they may require more time to escape. The basic concept of smoke detector placement is nothing more than common sense. In a fire, the extra few seconds of warning a well-placed smoke detector provides can literally mean the difference between life and death.
There are certain place in a home where a smoke detector should never be placed, including the kitchen and bathrooms, as they are likely to malfunction in these areas. Also, smoke detectors should not be placed near a heating or air conditioning duct, as the flow of air from vents can move smoke away from the detector and it may not sound an alarm at a critical time.
A good rule of thumb is to position a smoke detector for every 400 square feet of space a home includes, at the minimum. Batteries should be changed every six months in each smoke detector, and after installation of a new battery a check should be done to ensure the smoke detector is operating properly. Additionally, an escape route should be planned in the event of an emergency, and every family member should know how to react.