What You Need To Know About Smoke Detectors

According to the National Fire Protection Association 2012 fire statistics, show there were 1,375,000 fires reported in the United States resulting in 2855 deaths, 16,500 injuries and $12.4 billion in property damage. Of that number the vast majority of civilian injuries (14,700) and property damage ($9.8 billion) were from 480,500 structure fires.

The National Fire Protection Association had 2010 surveys conducted by the Harris company and a separate survey by the Consumer Product Safety Commission revealed that between 96 and 97% of the surveyed households reported having at least one smoke alarm. That means that close to 5 million households still did not have any.

So what’s the big deal?

It’s nice to have a smoke alarm; but if it isn’t working, it doesn’t do you much good.

Many people disable them intentionally because they consider them to be a nuisance.

The death rate per 100 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that didn’t have a working smoke alarm-either because there was no alarm at all or the alarm that was there was inoperable-than in homes with a working smoke alarm. Convinced yet?

So making sure that you have a smoke alarm is a good first step. But once you have it you need to make sure that it is operable at all times.

Three out of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes without working smoke alarms.

The risk of dying in a reported home structure fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms.

Some other statistics show:

  1. One structure fire was reported every 66 seconds.
  2. One home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds.
  3. One civilian injury was reported every 32 minutes.
  4. One civilian fire death every three hours and four minutes.

Our smoke alarm goes off frequently when we grill on the porch. Smoke seeps into the house and sets off the alarm. More commonly the kitchen smoke alarm sounds too often or more infrequently, steam from a hot shower sets off an alarm.

These nuisance alarms are a major cause for disconnecting a smoke alarm which is a huge mistake. Just move the alarm or if space constraints are impractical, get a photoelectric alarm or one that can be silenced temporarily.

Up until recently there were only two types of smoke detectors:

Ionization and Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

Ionization smoke alarms have two electrically charged plates with a small amount of radioactive material between them. The material ionizes the air and causes current to flow between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber it disrupts the flow of ions, reducing the flow of current and activating the alarm. This type of alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires.

Smoldering Fire
SMOLDERING FIRE

A photoelectric smoke alarm is generally considered to be more responsive to fires that begin with a long period of smoldering. They aim a light source into a sensing chamber at an angle away from the sensor. When smoke enters the chamber, it reflects the light onto the light sensor triggering the alarm.

So how do you know what kind of alarm to get? The obvious answer, up until now, was to get both types. Predicting the type of fire you may have in your home is risky business.

The consumer product and safety commission CPSC confirms that almost all households have at least one alarm but as noted, many are not working properly or the incorrect number per household are installed. The general rule of thumb is one smoke alarm for every bedroom and one for a large common area.

With new breakthrough in smoke sensing technology there is a new model that eliminates nuisance alarms and protect families against both types of fires-smoldering and flaming. You should get some!

How many smoke alarms do you have in your house? Have you ever disabled one? Please share your experience. We want to hear your thoughts.

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