A residential smoke detector is the most famil...

A smoke detector is useless unless it is well-maintained.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that we’ve all turned back our clocks, it’s time to ask the all important question:

Have you checked the smoke detectors in your loved one’s home?

It’s especially important for caregivers to remember to do this, as it is unlikely that our loved ones will both remember and be physically able to climb and replace batteries and test the detectors.

Different Types of Detectors for Different Types of Fire

Did you know that there are different types of smoke detectors?  The least expensive type, an ionization alarm, sells for about $5 and will respond quickly to a flaming fire, like those that occur when burning paper or flammable liquids.  What though, about electrical fires and those ignited by cigarettes or candles on bedding, furniture, and carpeting?  The ideal alarm for this situation would be a photoelectric alarm.  These detectors sell for about $20 each.  Ideally, each home should have both alarms installed, or purchase a dual alarm which uses both ionization and photoelectric technology.  These alarms are well worth the $30 price tag for the peace of mind they give.

Proper Installation Essential

Double check to make sure that smoke alarms are installed properly, and in all the right places in the home.  Alarms should not be installed over registers or air vents, where additional air flow can keep the alarm from working properly.  They should be free of dust and insects, so while you’re replacing the batteries, give the alarms a wipe with a soft clean cloth and/or a swipe with the vacuum.

Fire Escape Plan: In Action!

Make sure that your loved one knows what to do in case of a fire.  Have you rehearsed a plan?  If, because of illness, mental impairment is an issue, make sure your plan is well practiced, and that attention-grabbing signage is placed in appropriate areas so your family will know the exit routes if they are confused.  For more information on coordinating a fire escape plan, visit the National Fire Prevention Association’s website.