No one wants to have a fire. But when it happens, your chances of controlling the blaze and escaping death are greater if you have a smoke detector and fire extinguisher. These two important gadgets should be in every home.

"As simple as it sounds, installing smoke detectors is one of the most important safety steps a homeowner can take. The reason? Of all the building fires reported each year in the United States, 75 to 80 percent occur in homes, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). And nearly half of all home fires, and more than half of all home fire deaths, occur in buildings that are not equipped with smoke detectors," said the editors of Consumer Digest.

There are two types of detectors. About 90 percent work by ionization. A small electrical current is conducted inside the detector. When this is interrupted by smoke, an alarm is triggered.

Photoelectric smoke detectors - which are less common – rely on a small beam of light to sense fire. If the beam is broken by smoke, it emits a warning sound.

Which model is best for you? To make the most out of your money, consider the following tips from Consumers Digest and Consumer Reports:

Photoelectric models can detect a smoldering fire (one that originates in the upholstery) faster than ionization detectors. However, the latter react swiftly to flaming fires which can be smokeless. If you can afford it, have these two models installed in your home. If not, buy a unit that combines both systems to warn you immediately of any fire.

Test the detector monthly and replace the batteries yearly or earlier for best performance. While smoke detectors can cut your risk of dying in a fire by half, fire officials say one in three
detectors don't function properly because of dead or missing batteries.

Make sure your detector is loud enough to be heard. It should be at least 85 decibels (the industry standard) or louder.

If your model is 10 years old, discard it and get a new one.

Where should you install detectors? Ideally, they should be on every level of your home. But if your budget is tight, here are some suggestions from Consumers Digest:

The most important area in which to install a detector is the bedroom hallway. Don't, however, install detectors in kitchens and bathrooms because cooking fumes and water steam will set them off.

Detectors should be installed near or on the ceiling. On ceilings, place them at least four inches from the nearest wall. If installed on a wall, keep the unit between 4 and 13 inches
from the ceiling.

Don't install the detectors near windows, doors or a heating and air-conditioning vent, all of which could divert smoke from the unit.

Vacuum or dust the units at the same time to remove cobwebs and dust, and never paint over a smoke detector. (Next: Fighting fire with fire extinguishers.)

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Author's Bio: 

Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine