Smoke Alarms and CO Alarms Save Lives
Make Fire Protection A Priority
94% of all homes in North America have at least one smoke alarm. That is great because they save lives.
It’s great to have a door to your house. But, without a hinge you can’t get in. An alarm system is the same. It’s great to have one but if it isn’t functioning it is worthless.
Home fire deaths have decreased as the number of houses with working smoke alarms increases. Sometimes (okay, we will be honest often) our electricians find homes are equipped with non-functioning & unreliable smoke detectors. Battery powered units with dead batteries or no batteries (because someone “borrowed” them)
leave people living with a false sense of security. They believe they are protected from the flames of a house fire.
“I disconnected it because it is annoying,” one client confessed. “Everytime she turned on the toaster it activated,” her claimed. And, apparently some devices are even sensitive to the steam of a hot shower. In other cases of systems-that-don’t-work it is an aging device, now 8 to 10 years old, that is still being entrusted with the safety of the occupants.
Fortunately there are solutions to these problems. An inexpensive household smoke alarm can save your life by sounding an alarm, alerting you to a fire, and giving you time to escape safely.
There are two types of smoke alarms (and an alarm that includes both types).
- Ionization detectors respond more quickly to flame fires which often produce smaller combustion particles such as in a burning waste paper basket or grease fire. Because of this sensitivity, it is possible they are more easily activated by normal cooking activities.
- Photoelectric units seem to respond more quickly to smoldering fires such as a cigarette dropped on a mattress or couch. Both types can be activated by steam or a high humidity environment.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) Sensors should also be installed to warn of increased levels of this deadly poisonous gas. Codes provide guidelines to where these units must be located. CO gas is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas produced by fuel-burning appliances such as a gas range or hot water tank, wood, coal or gas fireplace, or an idling vehicle in an enclosed garage, among other things. A dangerous situation may quickly arise if venting is inadequate or compromised in any way. These sensors can be purchased singly or in combination with ionization smoke alarm units.
Specialized smoke alarms for the hearing impaired work with a flashing strobe light, bright enough to cut through the room’s natural or incandescent lighting are available for the hearing impaired. Some units also come equipped with a portable vibrating disk to be placed under the pillow at night.
Most fire related deaths occur at night while people are asleep. The smoke from a fire may not awaken you from slumber; in fact, it often acts as a sedative. It can put you into an even deeper sleep. Therefore, an up to date, functioning smoke alarm is the best early warning system for a fire.
How to maintain your smoke alarm.
As with all electrical components, regular care and maintenance of your smoke alarms is necessary. It has to work right and activate when you need it. Here are a few tips to keep your units functional.
- Test your smoke alarms by pressing the test button once a month.
- For battery operated smoke alarms, replace the battery at least once a year with brand new batteries.
- Never “borrow” the smoke alarm battery for another use.
- Vacuum the alarm regularly as cobwebs and dust can impair the alarm’s sensitivity.
- Never paint a smoke alarm.
- Check the expiration date on each unit and replace alarms that are close to ten years old as they are no longer considered to be reliable.
Develop a Home Fire Escape Plan
And finally, in addition to equipping your home with smoke and CO alarms, please take the time to develop a home fire escape plan. Review and practice it regularly with the people in your house. The fire department and library have information on how to plan a home fire escape route.
Your life, and your family’s life, may depend on it.