It’s shameful in this day and age that property owners are still cutting corners with their building’s safety protocols. One precaution that doesn’t get enough attention is the regular maintenance and effective placement of smoke detectors.
How smoke travels is well-documented science, so smoke detector placement should be given the same level of precision. No one expects to have a fire in their building, so smoke detector testing and maintenance is frequently a low priority.
Is smoke detection really that important?
Yes, extremely. Every minute that you’re unaware of a fire in your building, your chance of injury drastically increases. Indeed, smoke inhalation is the most common cause of death in a fire, and the spread of smoke is remarkably faster than fire itself, so smoke detection is in fact your primary concern.
The science of smoke travel
Smoke travels vertically and horizontally, reaching the corners of rooms and hallways last. As such, smoke detectors in these areas will be least effective.
Smoke detector placement
At minimum, there should be one smoke detector on each floor, but ideally there should be a centrally located detector inside each unit, in addition to the hallways. If you’re concerned that there aren’t enough detectors in your building, or that they’re not placed correctly, consult your city’s fire code.
If you are installing a detector yourself, avoid placing it too low on a wall. It should be no more than 12 inches below the ceiling.
- There should be nothing covering or obscuring a smoke detector, including décor and even children’s stickers.
- Painting a smoke detector can severely limit or completely impair function.
- Detectors installed near windows, doors and ducts are less effective due to air flow.
- To avoid false alarms, install a detector at least ten feet from cooking appliances.
- Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
If you’ve suffered property damage or injuries from a fire and believe smoke detector failings contributed to the seriousness of the fire, consult an attorney.