Fire Alarm: Protect Your Family from Fires

Smoke Alarms: What to Know

There are two types of smoke alarms: ionization alarms, which are generally more responsive in detecting flaming fires, and photoelectric alarms, which may provide an earlier alert for smoldering fires. For the best protection, buy some of each kind or use dual-sensor alarms that combine both technologies. If you get frustrated because your alarms go off every time you burn toast, get ones with a hush button so you can silence them quickly. All alarms need to be replaced every 10 years.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends buying smoke alarms containing lithium batteries, which are guaranteed to last for 10 years. If you use regular alarms, replace the batteries annually. Even units that are hardwired into your home's wiring need a fresh backup battery every year. (Some organizations advocate changing batteries when you change your clock for daylight saving, but the NFPA says you don't need to change them twice a year unless the low-battery beep on an alarm sounds.) No matter what type of alarms you have, check them once a month by pressing the test button. Amazingly, only 15 percent of families do this, according to the CDC. Testing your alarms is an easy way to get your kids involved. They'll learn to recognize the sound, and you can talk about what they should do when they hear it.

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