So you know you have at least one (maybe two depending on the layout of your house) hardwired smoke alarm installed in your house. You probably don’t pay much attention to it but every now and then it gives you a shrieking reminder that your toast is burning. Hey at least it works right?
However will it work when you really need it to? Do you test it regularly? Do you know its expiry date? Did you know that they even have an expiry date? Don’t worry if you don’t, you are one of the many people that are unaware.
In the event of a fire, your smoke alarm is your first warning to get out of the house. When a house fire starts at night, by the time the occupants have awoken to the smell of smoke it’s already too late to escape. Smoke alarms save lives. More accurately, working smoke alarms save lives.
Checking and maintaining your smoke alarm
So how do you check your smoke alarm is working and in date?
Firstly, you should inspect your smoke alarm once a month to ensure it is free from dirt, dust and insects. Use a vacuum or soft bristle brush to carefully clean out the unit.
Every unit will have a test button on the front cover. Always test the unit by pressing this button after cleaning. If the unit gives out an audible sound, it is working.
To check the date of the alarm, you will need to open the cover. Using a ladder or safety step, remove the cover of the unit. Underneath you will see either an expiry date or a date of manufacture or installation. Your alarm has 10 years from the date of manufacture or installation before expiring.
Don’t forget to change your battery once a year (with the exception of approved battery operated units). April 1st is Change Your Smoke Alarm Battery Day.
Types of Smoke Alarms
There are two main types of smoke alarms for domestic application; Photoelectric and Ionisation. Photoelectric smoke alarms respond faster to larger particles such as those created by smouldering fires. Ionisation alarms respond faster to smaller particles which are produce by fires with larger flames. In the event of a fire, you would want to be made aware of the fire while it is still in the smouldering stage.
It is important to always be prepared in case the worst should happen. The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has some great information on preparing a family escape plan https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/safetyinformation/fire/fireinthehome/pages/homeescapeplan.aspx