Smoke Detectors

Do you have smoke detectors in your home? You should. Smoke detectors save lives. Smoke detectors are designed to be an early warning in the event of fire. This early warning and knowing what to do when the alarm sounds are the keys to survival.

There are two general types of smoke detectors.Here we will explain the advantages and disadvantages of each. Remember that this is only a guide designed to familiarize you with the smoke detector operation and maintenance. For more information, contact your local retailer.

Smoke detectors are manufactured by many different companies and we are not suggesting the use of one brand over another.

The first type of detector available is the ionization type. This type uses a small amount of radioactive material to conduct electricity. When the smoke enters the chamber, this interferes with the conduction of electricity, reducing the current flow, causing the alarm to sound. This type of detector can detect particles smaller than the human eye can see. Ionization type detectors respond to open flame fires faster than do photoelectric detectors.

The photoelectric detector uses a small light source that shines into a dark sensing chamber. When the smoke from a fire enters the sensing chamber, light is reflected off the smoke particles, allowing it to strike the photo cell. Basically, this type of detector has to see the smoke. Photoelectric detectors respond slightly faster to smoldering fires than do ionization detectors.

Each type of smoke detector can be powered by batteries or houshold electricity, depending on your preference. Battery powered smoke detectors are the easiest to install with minumum tools required. Smoke detectors can be purchased that operate on normal 110 volt houshold current. This type of installation usually requires a certified electrician to install. However, in a power outage, the detector will not work unless it is equipped with a battery backup.

Batteries in smoke detectors should be changed twice a year to ensure proper operation. A good rule of thumb is to change the batteries when you change the time clocks.

Location and proper mounting of the smoke detector is critical to the correct operation of the detector. Smoke detectors should be placed in the center of the ceiling or on a wall at least 12 inches from the ceiling. The corner where the wall meets the ceiling acts as a shield and the detector will be slow in operating because of this.

If possible, smoke detectors should be placed in every room, with the exception of the bathroom. The moisture in the air will cause numerous false alarms. At the very least, smoke detectors should be placed on every floor of the home close to sleeping areas. The alarm should be close enough for everyone to hear. There are also special detectors for the hearing impaired.

Your smoke detector should be tested by pushing the test button once per week. Once a month, the detector should be tested with an aerosol, called canned smoke, specifically designed for testing smoke detectors. Simply pushing the test button only tests the horn wiring circuit. The horn may sound, but will it work in a fire situation?

After choosing and installing your smoke detectors, you should conduct fire drills. These drills, called E.D.I.T.H.(exit drills in the home) will prepare your family for a fire situation. To conduct these drills, you first need an escape plan. Draw a simple floorplan of your home and mark at least two ways out of every room. Teach you family these escape routes. To start the drill, press the test button on your smoke detector. Announce that there is a fire and have your family get safely out of the home using one of the rehearsed escape routes. Choose a meeting place a safe distance from the home for every one to meet. This will ensure that everyone is safely out of the house. Teach everyone that once outside the house, stay out. Never go back into a burning building. Simulate going to a neighbors house to call 911. Practice these steps on a regular basis. When there is a real fire, everyone will follow these steps without thinking about it. It will feel natural to them.

If you have burglar bars installed on your home, ensure the bars can be opened from the inside in case of an emergency. Check on elderly people regularly. Help them test their smoke detectors. Help them change the batteries. Elderly people and children are the most succeptable to being injured or killed in a fire. It is everyones responsibility to take care of the people we love.