Bureau of Fire Prevention

Chris Shay
Fire Marshal/Official
(973) 635-3211


Fire Safety While You Sleep

Install Smoke Detectors!

Do Smoke Detectors
Really Save Lives?

Most fatal home fires occur at night, while people are asleep. Poisonous gases and smoke from a fire in your home can numb the senses in a very short time.

Every home needs a device that can wake people up in time to escape from a fire. Of all the low-cost fire alarm devices you can buy, the Township of Chatham - Fire Prevention Bureau considers smoke detectors to be one of the most effective. Smoke Detectors that are older than 10 years old are NOT reliable and should be replaced.

How To Choose A
Smoke Detector?

There are dozens of reputable brands of smoke detectors readily available. No matter where you buy your detectors or what type they are, be sure to buy only ones that are UL approved.

Any labeled smoke detector offers protection - whether it's powered by batteries or household current, whether it's photoelectric or an ionization device.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations for installation, testing and maintenance. This is very important!

How Many Do I Need?

According to the accepted Standard on Household Fire Warning Equipment (NFPA 74), minimum protection requires smoke detectors outside each bedroom and on each additional story of the house, including the basement or cellar.

For additional protection, you may install detectors inside each bedroom, the dining room, furnace room, utility room and hallways. If your family sleeps with bedrooms doors closed, it's especially important to install detectors inside the bedrooms.

Where And How Should I
Install My Smoke Detectors?

Most smoke detectors can be installed easily. Most operate either on batteries or household current. A detector that plugs into a wall outlet must have a restraining device so that the plug cannot accidentally be pulled from the wall. Detectors can also be hard-wired into the electrical system. But never hard-wire a detector to a circuit that can be turned off at a wall switch.

Because smoke rises, each detector should be mounted high on a wall or on the ceiling to detect the first traces of smoke. For a wall-mounted unit, the top of the detector should be 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling. A ceiling-mounted detector should be placed at least 4 inches from any wall In a room with a high pitched ceiling, mount the detector on or near the ceiling's highest point.

Most home fires start in living areas - the den, family room or living room. On a floor with no bedrooms, install the required detector in or near the living area. If a stairway leads to an upper story, install the detector in the path where smoke would travel up the stairs.

Don't install a detector near a window, door or air register where drafts could reduce its sensitivity.

Locate a basement smoke detector close to the stairway leading to the floor above. But don't install the detector at the top of the basement stairs: dead air space near the door may prevent smoke from reaching the detector.

Maintaining Your Smoke Detectors

It's extremely important to test and clean all detectors regularly. At least every three months.

Replace the batteries according to the manufacturer's recommendations - or at least once a year. Warn everyone in your household to leave working batteries in smoke detectors - resist temptation to borrow them for other purposes.

Never paint a smoke detector. Because cobwebs and dust can impair a detector's sensitivity, vacuum your detectors at least once a week to make sure you're protected.

What Happens When
The Detector Sounds?

Being awakened by a smoke detector can be a frightening and disorienting experience even for adults - so plan your escape before it an emergency.

First of all, make sure everyone knows what your smoke detector sounds like. So test it in front of the entire family.

Plan at least two ways out from each room - especially the bedrooms. Agree on a place to meet outside the house or apartment building so you'll know when everyone is out.

Have everyone rehearse the plan regularly.

In case of a real fire, get out of the house immediately. Once at the meeting place, have one person go to a neighbors phone to call the fire department by dialing 911. In addition to telling them your name and address, tell them if anyone is still in the house.

Fire safety In Your Home
Starts Immediately!

In combination with a family escape plan, properly installed and maintained smoke detectors can save lives in case of fire.

Smoke detectors
do save lives!


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