(from the National Fire Protection Association, and First Alert)
* 13 out of 14 homes have smoke detectors, but over half of those detectors don’t work because people do not replace dead batteries.
* 8 out of 10 fire deaths occur in the home.
* The majority of fire deaths occur at night when people are asleep.
* Almost half of home fires and 60% of fire deaths occur in homes with no alarms.
* There are more homes equipped with smoke alarms that don’t work then there are homes with no smoke alarms.
* Home fires on average cause half a million dollars in damage every hour.
* The smell of smoke will most likely not wake up a sleeping person. Instead, the gases and smoke from a fire could · easily numb the sense and induce a deeper sleep.
* Wall-mounted, battery-operated smoke detectors start at less than ten dollars.
Types of Smoke Detectors & Alarms
Battery operated & wall-mounted units have been around for awhile. They are reliable but they offer only a minimum of protection. Batteries can die if left unattended or untested. The best this unit will do for you is make a lot of noise once it’s triggered, but it does you no good if you are not at home to hear it go off.
Hard-wired dedicated alarms draw power from the electrical system in your house, so you’ll avoid the danger of failing batteries jeopardizing your safety. They usually have battery backups in case power fails during a fire (a home fire that starts in your breaker box or electrical system will knock out power to this type of hard-wired alarm system). New homes sometimes dedicate a single circuit solely to smoke detectors. Some systems link multiple detectors around the house to a single circuit, so if one detector in the house is triggered, all the alarms in the house go off. This still offers no protection if you’re away from home when the alarms go off.
Monitored Smoke Alarms – Home-based, non-monitored detectors can only sound an alarm within your home, so who will hear the alarm if you’re sleeping, or not at home? The best protection available today comes from security systems installed in the home and monitored by private security agencies. They can wire your home to protect against break-ins, and at the same they can monitor smoke alarms tied into that security system. Once a monitored smoke detector is triggered, it will set off alarms in your home so you’re alerted to danger. It will also immediately send a signal to a monitoring station. That station then immediately notifies the fire department. They do not call your house and request a password to verify the alarm as they do for some intrusion alarms. So while you’re helping your loved ones to safety, the fire department is dispatched without the need for you to stop the life-saving process to make a phone call.
If you’re not at home when the detectors are triggered, you will still get help in saving your home because the monitored system calls for help while you’re away.
Three key points on smoke alarms – Placement, Testing & Maintenance.
Placement - Alarms should be placed on a ceiling at least 4 inches from the nearest wall, or high on a wall, 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling. This way you avoid “dead spaces” where turbulent, churning hot air may not make contact with a surface or a corner.
Keep alarms away from windows, doors & fireplaces because drafts could deter smoke away from the detector.
Since smoke always rises, place one of your smoke detectors at the highest point of a home or floor, such as a vaulted ceiling.
If your home has a number of ceiling levels (overhangs, interior stair landings etc.), you should place a smoke detector on every horizontal ceiling surface. Smoke rising from a fire in one corner of a room could get trapped under an overhang long before it churns enough to reach a higher point, so a detector placed only at the highest interior point will not detect that smoke in time to warn you of fire.
Testing – Push the test button on each battery-operated detector at least once a month. Use a broom handle if the detector is out of reach. A dying 9V battery will emit a low-power chirping signal. When you hear the chirp, change the battery. Batteries should be changed every time you change your clocks back or forth for daylight savings (in other words at least twice a year).
Maintenance – Manufacturers suggest cleaning detectors of cobwebs, dust and cooking grease to ensure proper performance and avoid “nuisance” alarms (the kind that are set off by conditions other than a legitimate fire or smoke situation).