Smoke Detectors / Smoke Alarms
Why you need smoke alarms.
is no doubt about it--smoke alarms save lives ! It's that
According to the National Fire
"In 2002, there were
389,000 home fires in the U.S., resulting in 2,670 civilian deaths, 13,650
civilian injuries, and $5.9 billion in direct property damage."
"While 94% of
American homes have at least one working smoke alarm, more than one-third
of these alarms are inoperable because of dead or missing batteries.
Nearly half of the nation's fire deaths occur in the other 6% of homes
that do not have smoke alarms."
Don't be a statistic -- Don't
be in the 6% of homes at higher risk of fire death.
Don't forget to maintain your
smoke alarm properly.
When a fire starts,
time is everything. Early discovery can be the difference between life and
death. Most fires occur in the wee hours of the morning when most people
are asleep. A well maintained and operating smoke alarm protects you and
your family 24/7 -- it can buy you time to escape !
How smoke alarms work, and many
there are two types of smoke alarms according to how they operate or
detect the presence of fire; there's an ionization type and a
photoelectric type. Even before there is visible smoke, there are charged
particles called ions, and this is what the ionization type smoke alarm
detects. There must be visible smoke or other obscuration to trigger the
photoelectric type. This means that the ionization type should activate
earlier than the photoelectric type. It also means that the ionization
type is not so good around kitchens, and the photoelectric type can be set
off by steam from a hot shower. You should use the right type for the area
in which it is mounted to prevent numerous false alarms. Early detection
(ionization type) is desirable near sleeping quarters, and the
photoelectric type is more desirable around the cooking area.
There are many different
types of smoke alarms.
Although the many smoke alarms on the market look different on the
outside, there are very few manufacturers of the inside. Added features
and cosmetic differences are really what you're paying for--and you do get
what you pay for. The least expensive smoke alarms may need to be replaced
every two or three years whereas the more expensive ones are good for five
to ten years. Generally, any smoke alarm that has been in service for 3~5
years should be rigorously tested. Any over ten years old should just be
Smoke alarms can be
utilized as single-station alarms (stand-alone), as multiple-station
alarms (connected together), or with a system that reports activations to
an off-site location that is attended 24 hours-a-day/ 7 days-a-week.
Single-station alarms can be battery operated or hard-wired (120 volt
house current), and some are hard-wired with battery back-up.
Multiple-station alarms are hard-wired in series, so that if one detector
goes into alarm, they all sound. Systems generally have a small fire alarm
control panel connected to the telephone wiring, a means of manual
activation, and separate detectors and annunciators (sounders).
Properly testing smoke alarms.
Using the push-button to test your
smoke alarm only tests the alarm, not the sensing chamber which is so
important. A valid test includes a smoking "punk stick" (like incense) or
a (UL) listed, specially formulated, aerosol spray.
How many you need.
You should have at least one on
each occupied level of your home. They should be located outside or inside
of sleeping quarters. Since it is safer to sleep with your bedroom doors
closed, be sure to try out your smoke alarms to be sure you can hear them
in every part of the bedroom. If it isn't easily heard, even when sound
asleep, put one inside of every bedroom. You should also install
smoke alarms in the area of any specific hazards, such as garages and
mechanical rooms or closets where heating appliances or electric motors
Proper installation of smoke
Most or all manufacturers put
specific installation instructions in the box with their smoke alarms.
Generally speaking, you want to position the detector or alarm where it
will be in the direct path of smoke or heat produced in the early stages
of a fire. On flat ceilings, try to determine the established airflow
pattern by looking at HVAC vents and return air grill placement. You can
also conduct your own experiment with safe smoke to "see" the airflow.
Recessed and peaked ceilings are easier given that heated air (and smoke)
rises. Look for the highest point of the ceiling, but beware of "dead
zones." Operationally, smoke alarms need to be "in the air-stream", and
most houses are built with many right angles. What that means is you don't
want to place a smoke alarm too close to a corner of a room or where the
ceiling meets the wall or right in the peak of a Cathedral ceiling.
With a flat ceiling,
smoke alarms should be spaced no more than 30 feet apart and not within 4
inches of a wall/ceiling corner (crown). With a pitched ceiling, stay 2 to
3 feet down-slope from the peak.
There are 3 basic
recommendations that represent 3 levels of protection. You must choose
the level you will be comfortable with:
1. Invest in a
low-cost system that will report all alarms to a professional monitor who
will instantly relay your alarm to the fire department OR;
multiple-station smoke alarms and detectors, so that if one goes into
alarm, they all sound OR;
(*This may require a
professional electrician to install properly.)
single-station smoke alarms and detectors that are hard-wired with battery
A warning from the Consumer
Product Safety Commission:
During Fire Prevention Week
2003, the CPSC issued a warning that "Millions of Americans Have Smoke
Alarms That Don't Work!" It's shocking, but true.
According to the
notice, "fire is the second leading cause of unintentional death in the
home," and "each year, 2700 people die in residential fires ..."
Also, "Although 10% of
homes have no smoke alarm, millions more do not have working smoke
BE SURE TO CHECK YOUR
SMOKE ALARMS WEEKLY, OR AT LEAST MONTHLY--AND CHANGE THE BATTERY AT LEAST
To view the CPSC press
release, go to:
Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors
When a carbon monoxide detector
A carbon monoxide
detector/alarm should be installed in every home or workplace that
utilizes gas burning appliances or fuel burning space heaters.
Carbon monoxide is a
by-product of combustion. Any fuel burning appliance, vehicle, tool or
other device has the potential to produce dangerous levels of carbon
monoxide gas. Examples of carbon monoxide producing devices commonly in
use around the home include:
fired furnaces (non-electric)
Fireplaces and woodstoves
Lawnmowers, snowblowers and other yard equipment
Why a carbon monoxide detector
can be life-saving.
hundreds of people are killed each year and thousands more are injured
by accidental CO poisoning. These deaths and injuries are typically caused
by improperly used or malfunctioning equipment aggravated by improvements
in building construction which limit the amount of fresh air flowing in to
homes and other structures.
maintenance and inspection of gas burning equipment in the home can
minimize the potential for exposure to CO gas, the possibility for some
type of sudden failure resulting in a potentially life threatening build
up of gas always exists.
Effects of carbon monoxide on
How it is recognized ?
Carbon monoxide is appropriately called "the silent killer." It is
colorless, odorless, tasteless, and toxic. It is also very hard to
impossible to detect without assistance. CO readily combines with blood to
inhibit blood's ability to carry oxygen to body tissue and vital organs.
CO toxicity is a factor of concentration (in parts-per-million) and time.
Some Symptoms from concentration are:
No symptoms. (Heavy smokers can = 9% COHb.)
15% Mild headache.
25% Nausea and serious headache.
Fairly quick recovery
after treatment with oxygen and/or fresh air.
30% Symptoms intensify.
Potential for long term effects,
especially in the case of infants, children, the elderly,
victims of heart disease, and pregnant women.
Stated in PPM over
35 PPM 8 hours
Maximum exposure allowed by OSHA in
the workplace over an eight hour
200 PPM 2-3 hours
Mild headache, fatigue, nausea and
400 PPM 1-2 hours
Serious headache- other symptoms
Life threatening after 3 hours.
800 PPM 45 minutes
Dizziness, nausea and convulsions.
Unconscious within 2 hours.
Death within 2-3 hours.
1600 PPM 20 minutes
Headache, dizziness and nausea.
Death within 1 hour.
3200 PPM 5-10 minutes Headache,
dizziness and nausea.
Death within 1 hour.
6400 PPM 1-2 minutes
Headache, dizziness and nausea.
Death within 25-30 minutes.
12,800 PPM 1-3 minutes Death.
How a carbon monoxide detector
There are a number of
different types and brands of carbon monoxide detectors on the market
today. They can be characterized by whether they operate on household
current or batteries. Some operate on household current, and have battery
back-up (highly recommended). More importantly, detectors are
distinguished by the type of sensor employed in their operation. Detectors
using household current typically employ some type of solid-state sensor
which purges itself and re-samples for CO on a periodic basis. This
cycling of the sensor is the source of its increased power demands.
Detectors powered by batteries typically use a passive sensor technology
which reacts to the prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide gas. The alarm
sounds when the detector/sensor exceeds safe limits of concentration over
How many carbon monoxide
detectors are needed.
A single detector should be
placed on each sleeping floor and/or each occupied floor level, with
an additional detector in the area of any major gas burning appliance such
as a furnace or water heater.
How to install a carbon
monoxide detector properly.
detectors should be placed high (near the ceiling) for most effective
use; however CO mixes readily with air, so near the ceiling may not be the
best place if it is in the HVAC "airstream." However, if your heat is
passive in nature, the CO may rise with heated air. Detectors that plug-in
to electrical outlets will also work very well. This separates smoke
detectors from carbon monoxide detectors as far as proper installation and
Installation in the
area of gas burning appliances ensures rapid detection of any potentially
malfunctioning appliance and the ability to hear the alarm from all
Detectors should also
not be placed within five feet of gas fueled appliances or near cooking or
bathing areas. Be sure to consult the manufacturers' installation
instructions for proper placement of a detector within a given area.