Q&A

Where to put your smoke detector

By Cottage LifeCottage Life

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Photo by Paul Flannery

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The Question

Where is the best location for a smoke detector?

The Answer

The primary purpose of a smoke alarm is to grab your attention – and if you’re asleep, wake you up – so everyone in the building can get out fast. That’s why, no matter how your cottage is arranged, there must be an alarm just outside each sleeping area. Since 1997, the Ontario Fire Code has required a smoke alarm between each sleeping area and the remainder of the building, while the Office of the Fire Marshal recommends that there also be one smoke alarm on every level, including the basement. Don’t tuck alarms into corners, though, because they tend to be “dead” air pockets that smoke is slower to reach.

If your cottage has a woodstove, you should also install a carbon monoxide (CO) detector. All fuel-burning devices produce CO as a byproduct of combustion, and in most cases the CO is safely vented to the outside. But if anything obstructs the venting process (for instance, a bird’s nest in the chimney), CO can quickly build to dangerous levels. Again, the best place to put the detector is where you’ll hear it while sleeping. Fireplace inserts – normally designed to burn with doors shut – can be another source of CO buildup if they’re used improperly. Always follow the insert manufacturer’s instructions.

The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal offers excellent fact sheets with up-to-date advice on choosing, placing, and maintaining smoke alarms and CO detectors in the fire safety section of its website, www.firesafetycouncil.com.


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