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More than half of all fatal home fires strike when people are asleep. The sooner a sleeping person wakes up and reacts, the sooner his or her chances are of surviving a fire. Smoke alarms are considered the most effective low-cost early warning device available.

Click to watch a short video created by the United States Fire Administration

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IDEAL LOCATIONS

Smoke alarms should be installed on every level (floor) of your home, including the basement. Install alarms outside each sleeping area.

Do not place detectors in bathrooms, kitchens, attic spaces or garages because they are more prone to nuisance alarms from smoke, steam, dust and automobile exhaust.

Ideally you want to place the alarm on the ceiling since smoke rises to the highest point in the room early in a fire. If you must place it on a wall, it should be installed so that the top edge of the detector is between 4 and 12 inches from the ceiling.

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The best recommendation is to have "hard wired" smoke alarms.This term means that the detectors are wired directly to your homes electrical system and have battery back-up. They are usually interconnected to each other so that when one activates, they will all activate.

Current Michigan building code requires "hard wired"smoke detectors installed in newly constructed homes and existing apartments. This includes having detectors in each bedroom. If you live in an apartment your landlord is required by law to have at least one"hard wired" detector on each level and near sleeping areas no matter the age of the building.


KIDS AND SMOKE DETECTORS

There have been several studies conducted that indicate that children under the age of 16 are prone no to wake from traditional smoke alarms. One therory is that children of this age have different sleep paterns and arousal thresholds than adults. You may want to consider conducting an unannounced fire drill at your home at night after your family has gone to sleep. You may be suprised by the results.

During some of these same studiesit wasfound that detectors with voice recordings were over 90% effective in waking kids under the age of sixteen. With this knowledge smoke detector manufacturers have produced detectors with the ability to record a parents instructions. Check your local stores or the Internet for more information and availability.

Click here to read more about one such study.

It is also important to routinely practice fire drills. It is not uncommon for children not to react as they should when startled from sleep. Researchers believe that constant practice can also train the brain to awaken to smoke alarm noises faster.


MAINTENANCE

Once you have smoke detectors in your home it is important to maintain them. It is estimated that nearly one fifth of smoke alarms installed in homes today are not in proper working order. Two of the largest problems are missing or faulty batteries, and detectors that are more than 10 years old.

The sensors in a smoke alarm will degrade over time. This along with years of exposure to dust and contaminants will cause detector performance to falter. Thus smoke alarms should be replaced every ten years by most manufacturer's recommendations.

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Unless your detector is equipped with a Lithium "long life" battery you should change your battery twice a year. The best time to remember is "Change your clock, change your battery".


FREE SMOKE DETECTORS

The Bridgeport Fire Department in partnership with the American Red Cross will install free smoke detectors in residences of Bridgeport Township only. The detectors must be installed by fire department personnel and cannot be distributed otherwise. An appointment during normal business hours is required and the occupant receiving the detector(s) must fill out a registration/questionnaire provided by the American Red Cross. Detectors are available while supplies last and first come first serve. Limit three per house hold. Note: Owners of rental properties are required by law to provide working smoke detectors and those detectors are typically required to hardwired and interconnected. The detectors available through this program will not meet rental property requirements.


APARTMENTS

If you live in a rental property your landlord is legally bound by code to provide the proper smoke detector coverage. Please contact you landlord if you have problems with your smoke detectors. If for some reason they do not respond promptly to your request, call (989) 777-2400 and request Fire Inspector, Louis Wiegele.