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Preparing for Winter


 NFPA urges replacing home smoke alarms after 10 years

Quincy, MA, October 23, 2001óReplacing batteries in home smoke alarms will be a common ritual this weekend for many people as daylight savings time ends. But if smoke alarms in your home are more than 10 years old, NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) recommends replacing them, as well.

Why? According to NFPA, aging smoke alarms don't operate as efficiently and often are the source for nuisance alarms. Older smoke alarms are estimated to have a 30% probability of failure within the first 10 years. Newer smoke alarms do better, but should be replaced after 10 years. Unless you know that the smoke alarms are new, replacing them when moving into a new residence is also recommended by NFPA.

Smoke alarms, when properly installed, give an early audible warning needed to safely escape from fire. That's critical because 85% of all fire deaths occur in the home, and the majority occur at night when most people are sleeping. Last year, NFPA documented 3,420 home fire deaths.

Fully 94% of U.S. homes had at least one smoke alarm as of 1997, according to NFPA, but as of 1998, 40% of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments and 52% of home fire deaths still occurred in the small share of homes with no smoke alarms. Half of the deaths from fires in homes equipped with smoke alarms resulted from fires in which the smoke alarm did not sound--usually when batteries were dead, disconnected or missing. 

Following are  NFPA's recommendations for maintaining your home smoke detector's:

Install new batteries in all alarms once a year or when the alarm chirps to warn that the battery is dying.

 Test units at least monthly. Test the units using the test button or an approved smoke substitute. 

Clean the units, in accordance with the manufacturers' instructions. 

Do not use an open-flame device for testing because of the danger the flame poses. 

Smoke alarms should be placed outside each sleeping area and on each level of the home, including the basement. 

In new homes, smoke alarms are required in all sleeping rooms, according to the National Fire Alarm Code. Alarms should be mounted on the wall 4-12 inches from the ceiling; ceiling-mounted alarms should be positioned 4 inches away from the nearest wall.  On a vaulted ceiling, be sure to mount the alarm at the highest point of the ceiling.

For more information on this site regarding smoke detectors please check these links:

Smoke Detector Care

Smoke Detector Placement

Smoke Detector Requirements




According to NFPA's U.S. Home Heating Fire Patterns and Trends in 1998, there were 49,200 heating equipment-related home fires reported to U.S. fire departments, resulting in 388 deaths, 1,445 injuries and $515 million in property damage.

Two of every three home heating fires in the U.S. in 1998, and three of every four related deaths, were attributed to space heating equipment.

All types of common space heating equipment are involved in home fires: portable electric heaters, portable kerosene heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces with inserts and room gas heaters.

Common causes of space heating home fires are: lack of regular cleaning, leading to creosote build-up, in wood-burning devices and associated chimneys and connectors; failing to give space heaters space, by installing or placing them too close to combustibles; basic flaws in the construction or design of wood burning heating equipment; and fueling errors involving liquid- or gas-fueled heating equipment.

Safety Tips:

Space heaters need space. Portable space heaters need a three-foot (one meter) clearance from anything that can burn and should always be turned off when leaving the room or going to sleep.

When buying a new unit, make sure it carries the mark of an independent testing lab. Be sure that a qualified technician installs the unit or checks that the unit has been installed properly.

Wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, chimney connectors, and all other solid-fueled heating equipment need to be inspected annually by a professional and cleaned as often as the inspections indicate.  A permit from the Township of West Milford Building Department must be obtained to install woodstoves, fireplaces and certain propane fired devices.  Make sure to check with the Department at 973-728-2780 before installing any new heating devices. 

Use a sturdy fireplace screen to keep sparks from flying into the room.

Portable kerosene heaters must be fueled only in a well-ventilated area, free of flame and other heat sources, and only when the device has cooled completely. Use only the type of kerosene specified by the manufacturer for that device, and never use gasoline instead of kerosene. Also, remember that kerosene heaters are illegal in the Township of West Milford as any primary source of heat.

When turning a heating device on or off, be careful to follow the manufacturer's instructions. When buying heaters, look for devices with automatic shutoff features.

Be sure any gas-fueled heating device is installed with proper attention to ventilation, and never put unvented gas space heaters in bedrooms or bathrooms. Also, LP (liquefied petroleum) gas heaters with self-contained fuel supplies are prohibited for home use by NFPA codes.

Home Fire Statistics

Four of every five fire deaths result from home (one-or two-family dwellings, apartments or manufactured housing) fires. Two-thirds of all fire deaths result from fires one- or two-family dwellings or manufactured housing. 

Most fatal fires kill one or two people only. In 1999, 2,895 people died as a result of home fires; only 21 home fires killed five or more people. These 21 fires accounted for only 115, or 4%, of the home fire deaths.

The statistics below are based on annual averages for the five year period from 1993 through 1997:

Half of all home fire deaths result from fires that were reported between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Only one-fourth of the home fires occur during these hours. 

January is the peak month for home fire deaths. February ranks second, and December is third.

Smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths overall, but in the winter months of December, January and February, smoking and heating equipment cause similar shares of the fire deaths. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. 

Only one-fifth of the home fire deaths were caused by fires in which a smoke alarm was present and operated. 

Although children five and under make up about 9% of the country's population, they account for 19% of the home fire deaths, giving these youngsters a risk twice that of the general population. Adults 65 and over also face a risk twice that of the general population. People over 65 have a risk that is almost five times as great as average. 

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Don't Become a Statistic






Know What To Do If Your Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off

  More and more New Jersey households are installing carbon monoxide (CO) alarms as protection against this invisible hazard. Just as fire fatalities have dropped by more than 34% in the last 10 years with the increased use of smoke detectors, the hope is to see additional lives saved as carbon monoxide detectors protect more homes. Carbon Monoxide is a gas that is undetectable by human senses, yet it can cause health problems, brain damage, and even death.

When concentrations of the gas build up, flu-like symptoms may develop, especially among younger and older family members who are less tolerant of this poison.

If your carbon monoxide alarm activates:

Gather all family members together in a pre-designated meeting place and check to be sure everyone is present.

Determine if anyone is experiencing poisoning symptoms, such as headache, nausea, dizziness or disorientation.

 If so, leave the building immediately and call 911. Do not re-enter until responders say it is safe to do so.

If no symptoms are present press your CO alarmís reset button and turn off all potential sources of carbon monoxide - any appliance or machine that runs on fossil fuel, such as a gas or oil furnace, water heater, stove, oven, clothes dryer, space heater, fireplace, grill or car left running in an attached garage.

Open doors and windows to let in fresh air.

Call a trained technician to check your appliances, flue and chimney systems.

Most importantly if you donít have a UL-listed carbon monoxide alarm, get one. A carbon monoxide alarm could one day save your life and the lives of your loved ones.  For more information regarding Carbon Monoxide please check this  page:

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

 Home & Hearth Safety


Township of West Milford OEM


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