One of the greatest improvements in building safety has been the installation of smoke detector devices in homes, offices and commercial buildings. In commercial buildings smoke and fire detectors are generally part of a comprehensive fire alarm system. But residential smoke detectors, often called smoke alarms, are generally independent systems designed to protect one household or one unit in a multi-unit building.
Properly working smoke detectors cut the risk of fatalities in a home fire in half. The U.S. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports 0.53 deaths per 100 fires in homes with working smoke alarms compared to 1.18 deaths in homes where there were no working smoke detectors. Studies have also shown that in many fatal events the smoke detector was inoperative or disabled.
Here are some things that you should know about residential smoke alarms.
- There are two types of smoke alarms – ionization and photoelectric. An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires. Photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types of alarms or combination ionization-photoelectric alarms, also known as dual sensor smoke alarms, are recommended.
- Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation. The NFPA has produced and easy to understand document titled Planning & Implementing a Successful Smoke Alarm Installation Program .
- In 1999 the NFPA began requiring the replacement of smoke detectors within ten years of the date of manufacture. All new units are clearly marked with the manufacture date.
- Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button.
- For the best protection, all smoke alarms should be interconnected. Then when one smoke alarm sounds they all sound. Interconnection can be done using hard-wiring or wireless technology. Most new construction homes today are required to have interconnected technology.
- Never paint smoke alarms. Paint, stickers, or other decorations could keep the alarms from working.
- Many states require the use of smoke alarms designed with non-replaceable batteries. It helps prevent the user from disabling or tampering with the unit.
Occupants should design and practice an escape plan. Every home fire escape plan is different. Families should know who will, and who won't, be awakened by the sound of the smoke alarm. Adults should be assigned to awaken children in the event of an alarm.
Smoke alarms are a key part of a home fire escape plan. When there is a fire, smoke spreads fast. Working smoke alarms give you early warning so you can get outside quickly. Following a comprehensive fire escape plan will double your chances of survival.
Joe Domino is a Realtor® serving the Phoenix & Scottsdale metro area. You can follow Joe's real estate blog at From The Outside Looking In or find more great information about Arizona real estate by visiting his website at www.Scottsdale-AZHomes.com