Smoke Detector Vigilance

Smoke detectors are the number one defense in the home against injury and death by fire. They warn us of the danger and enable us to save our own lives and those of our loved ones as well. While over 90% of homes in the US have smoke alarms, that doesn’t mean these places where we live are always protected. Battery failure, improper installation, and even inferior product design can render many living situations prone to an undetected fire. Here are some things to think about when choosing, installing, and maintaining a detection device.

New technology

While national standards are not established in regards to the presence of a smoke detector in the home, most states are moving away from the old style devices powered by a 9 volt battery. The push is for hardwired alarms that are interconnected. When this setup is achieved, all of the alarms in the residence go off at the same time. Triggered by the affected alarm, anyone in the home will be alerted to the danger, no matter how far away from the fire they may be. Since 3 in 5 deaths by fire are due to faulty devices, the 9 volt battery we all know so well is quickly falling by the wayside. In its place is a 10 year sealed battery instead. This eliminates the chore of changing all of the batteries in the home when we turn our clocks back each fall. Then after 10 years, the smoke detector has lived its life and new one needs to be installed.

Product and placement

There are two types of detection when it comes to fire warning devices. Ionization reacts to the flames from a blaze, and photoelectronics picks up the smoke from a smoldering fire. In this day and age, most products offer both types of detection, but it is wise to read the package before purchase.

These detectors should certainly be placed in every bedroom of the house. If not, outside the bedroom door is the next best thing. Just be aware that a closed door can slow the spread of smoke, resulting in less of time to exit a burning home.

At least one smoke detector should be placed on each floor, including the basement level. An additional device placed in the main living area is always a good idea. Any area where flammables are stored, such as a garage, should be equipped with a device as well. To see the rules and requirements for your particular state, click on the following link: Intl. Assoc. of Certified Home Inspectors

Plan for the worst

None of us wants to think about our home catching fire. The sad fact is that such tragedies occur every day to those who thought it would never happen to them. So we all must plan for the worst to save ourselves and families in the event of fire. The smoke detector/alarms will alert us to the danger, but now we need to escape. Have a plan in place to rapidly exit the house. Check each room and find two ways to get out of any area in the house. Then practice. Yes, have periodic fire drills with all family members exiting the house in a timely matter. Infants and the elderly should be assigned a family member whose job it is to make sure they get out safely. Special alarms are available for the deaf or hard of hearing which flash a strobe or shake a bed. Then there should be an assigned meeting place, such as a tree or a mailbox, that is a safe distance from the house.

The loss of a house and your belongings is heartbreaking, but the loss of a loved one to fire is often times unbearable.