Smoke Alarms: What You Need to Know

    Eighty-two percent of all fire-related deaths in America happen in a home. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, having a smoke alarm that works efficiently can reduce a person’s chances of perishing in a fire by about 50%. Moreover, one-third of residential fires & about two-fifth of the resultant fatalities can be prevented by installing and maintaining a proper smoke alarm. Needless to say, a smoke alarm should be installed in every household.

    Proper Installation and Precautions

    • Efficiency: Smoke alarms save thousands of lives every year. However, most people neglect to ensure that they’re in working order. It’s wise to check your smoke alarms and test them every month. You also need to replace the batteries on the alarm once a year/when it chirps to warn you about low battery power. Don’t disable the device due to nuisance alarms, since that would defeat the purpose.
    • Location: Just one alarm in some corner of your home won’t do. NFPA recommends one alarm on each level of your home, outside every sleeping area and inside all bedrooms. For the very best level of protection, you should install a fire alarm in every room in your home.
    • Connection: If it best to connect all your alarms to each other so that if one of them sounds, all of them would as well. Interconnected alarms give you a distinct head-start, allowing you a little more time to react if the fire’s still far away. It also helps to develop a fire escape plan and ensure that all members of your family know what the alarm sounds like.

    Types of Fires, Types of Alarms

    There are two types of fires that can occur in your home. The slow smoldering fire doesn’t burst into flames quickly, but rather produces a thick, toxic smoke that can kill quickly upon inhalation. The fast flaming fire is extremely hot and can move rapidly through the house.

    To detect these fires, either ionization smoke detection or photoelectric smoke detection is used. The former contains a radioactive metal called Americium that reacts to smoke and sounds the alarm. The latter detects smoke when it disrupts light beams and redirects them to the photo sensor on the device. The disturbance causes the alarm to activate. While both are effective; tests have shown photoelectric smoke detectors to be more efficient.

    Installing both types of alarms might ensure optimal smoke detection. However, you should always keep these devices switched on, in working condition and never remove the battery to disable nuisance alarms.