How prepared are you in the event of a fire in your home? Do you have an emergency escape plan? Do you have a fire extinguisher? What about your smoke detectors – have you checked them lately?

Smoke detectors are one of the most overlooked safety features in homes today. Yet proper use and care of smoke detectors can dramatically reduce the risks of being injured or dying in a home fire. Here’s what you may not know about these lifesaving devices:

You may need more smoke detectors than you have. Experts recommend that you have a smoke detector on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas. Bedrooms with doors that remain closed all the time need their own detectors. Smoke detectors should be installed away from windows, doors and air ducts. Walk through your home and make note of how many smoke detectors you currently have, where they are located, and then make a list of how many you need to meet recommended safety standards.

Your children may not know what to do if they hear a smoke alarm. Teach children what the smoke alarm sounds like and what to do when they hear it. Sounds simple, but many younger children have never actually heard a smoke alarm going off and don’t know where they should immediately go when they hear it. Make time for a family fire drill on a regular basis.

Your smoke detector may need to be cleaned. Vacuum over and around your detectors regularly, as dust and dirt can impair performance.

Your batteries need to be replaced. You want your smoke detectors to work when it matters most. Don’t let a dead battery be the difference between getting your family out safe and dealing with injury, damage or tragedy. Replace your units’ batteries at least once a year.

You may have a disabled alarm in your home. Test your alarm monthly to make sure that no one in your household has removed a battery or otherwise disabled a smoke alarm triggered by steam from a shower or something that burned in the oven.

You may need to replace one or more of the units in your home. Smoke detectors need to be replaced every 10 years. Don’t know when they were last replaced? Get some new ones.