Detecting a Safer Home

Have you checked your smoke detector lately, obtained a home CO2 detector or created an escape plan for your family in case of emergencies? As the days pass, people can fall into a false sense of security living in the comfort of their home. However, it’s important to remember that an emergency can happen at any time and it is best to be prepared.

Having a Working Smoke Detector

Just like you routinely check your air conditioner filters or your lint collector in the clothes dryer, checking your household smoke detector should become a standard. It is recommended by the National Fire Protection Association to check your smoke detector monthly using the “test button”. It’s a proven fact that working smoke detectors save lives. Out of half the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments from 2007 through 2011, 37% of homes where a death occurred did not have a smoke alarm present.1

Special smoke alarms can be found if you or a family member have disabilities, are deaf or hard of hearing. For example, as people age, their ability to hear high pitched sounds decreases so a fire alarm with a lower tone can be more effective in waking people than the higher pitch smoke alarm. Smoke alarm devices can also utilize strobe lights and different mixed low pitch sound accessories. Using such devices may be more beneficial than a standard, high pitch smoke alarm.

If you are looking for more information on how to protect your home from fire, Safety Source is a monthly e-newsletter distributed by the National Fire Protection Association that includes fire safety and educational tips and activities for the younger members of your family.

The Silent Home Safety Concern

Carbon monoxide (CO2) is colorless, tasteless and odorless gas produced during incomplete combustion of fuel as in natural gas, wood, coal, kerosene and oil. It can come from a blocked chimney, open flames, wood stoves, space heaters, water heaters or running the car in the garage. Carbon monoxide attaches to the hemoglobin in the blood, the oxygen carrying pigment in red blood cells, inhibiting the blood from carrying oxygen.  

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, during 1999-2010, there were a total of 5,149 deaths from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States, averaging at about 430 deaths per year.2 Because of this, the International Association of Fire Chiefs recommends a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of a home, including the basement. The CO2 detectors do require replacement between two to six years, depending on manufacturer recommendation.

Establishing a Safety Plan

No matter if you’re facing a fire, CO2 or another emergency, being prepared to safely escape your home will prove essential. Sparky the Fire Dog®, a program associated with the National Fire Protection Association, is an interactive website with activities and tools for fire prevention. The site also includes tips on how to create “A Family Safety Escape Plan” for your home. It’s never too late to put together an escape plan and teach your children or grandchildren what to do in case of an emergency in the home. Students routinely participate in fire and other emergency drills in elementary, middle and high school, but the plan for home can sometimes be forgotten.

It’s very simple to outline a plan:

  1. Draw a map of your home and mark all doors and windows.
  2. Check your windows and make sure they open easily from the inside.
  3. Discuss 1-2 ways out of each room in the event of a fire.
  4. Designate a meeting place outside for all family members.
  5. Practice your home fire drill at least once every 6 months (try different times of day and night).
  6. Close the doors behind you when you leave.
  7. Know where you would call the Fire Department from outside of your home.

Almost 71% of Americans have emergency escape plans, but only 47% have practiced them.3 Put your plan into action by practicing routinely with your family and making sure every member knows what to do in case of an emergency.

If you have yet to create an emergency plan for your home, set a goal of when to create one. Since Fire Prevention Week this year is October 5 to October 11, try to have accomplish your goals by the start of October. Start creating your plan of action together and remember that “accidents bring tears, but fire safety brings cheers!”


1. National Fire Protection Association:

2. QuickStats: Average Annual Number of Deaths and Death Rates from Unintentional, Non-Fire-Related Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, by Sex and Age Group – United States, 1999-2010. January 24, 2014/ 63(03); 65.

3. National Fire Protection Association: