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Home Fire Safety

When It Comes to Smoke Detector Safety – Don’t Get Burned!

Each year almost 3,000 people die in household fires. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), fires are the second leading cause of unintentional death in the home. Wherever they strike, fires can potentially be deadly. Ironically, it is rarely the fire itself that causes the injury or damage; rather, it is the smoke from the fire that attacks first. This is why smoke detectors (and carbon monoxide) detectors are so important.
It goes without saying that fires can also give rise to lawsuits, both for injuries and for property damage. In the past several years I have represented many victims who suffered catastrophic injuries, including death, as a result of a fire. Whether we are talking about your own home, or about a rental property, a few basic measures can help create a safer environment and insulate you from liability.

  • Purchase a lot of smoke detectors with alarms loud enough to wake your entire family.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors have a manufacturer’s warranty of at least five years.
  • The smoke detectors should have malfunction alarms that beep or chirp when the batteries are running low.
  • Properly install the smoke detectors. The preferred option is to have it “hard wired” so that if the batteries fail, the smoke detectors will still work. But never install hard wired units without putting in the batteries for backup.
  • Make sure you have smoke detectors installed on every level of your home, including the basement. Alarms should be outside of every sleeping area, and in rooms where there is an increased chance of a fire (i.e., laundry room, furnace room, kitchen, etc.)
  • Check the batteries in every detector. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that every household set a date twice a year, commonly daylight savings, to change the smoke detector battery.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are optimally installed by mounting the smoke detectors high on walls or on ceilings to insure that as smoke rises the detector will sound. Smoke detectors should be installed away from windows, doors, or air ducts that can interfere with their operation.

It only takes one small spark to start a deadly fire. By taking just a few minutes to check the batteries and setup of your smoke alarms, you can take a major step toward insuring your family’s safety, as well as your wallet, in the case of a lawsuit. Poorly installed or maintained smoke detectors can burn you in more than one way.

Cohen & Cohen, PC has represented a number of clients whose lives have been tragically changed by catastrophic fires. One of our clients, Donald Peterson, lost three of his family members in a house fire in 2001.

For more information on fire safety, visit one of the following sites:

The Consumer Product Safety Commission
The National Fire Protection Association


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