Fire Safety: The Importance of Smoke Alarms
Having several smoke alarms placed throughout your home is the best way to detect a fire quickly. Though, these small devices can be overlooked and forgotten, they are a key step to ensuring your family’s safety.
Why are smoke alarms important?
According to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, residential fires account for 73 per cent of fire-related deaths in Canada. In most of these cases, investigators found that a smoke alarm did not go off. This could mean the smoke alarm was disconnected or it needed new batteries. A correctly installed and well-maintained smoke alarm is one of the best ways to minimize the dangers of a fire-related injury or fatality. Smoke alarms save lives.
How does a smoke alarm work?
A smoke alarm should be placed on the ceiling of each floor of your house, including the basement. There should be at least one smoke alarm installed in the hallway to your bedroom. There are two main types of smoke detectors, ionization and photoelectric. Both of these smoke alarms react to different types of fires.
Ionization detectors contain a chamber with a small electrical current. When smoke enters the ionization chamber, the smoke particles disrupt the electrical current, which makes the alarm go off. These types of detectors react fast to flaming fires which give off plenty of heat and hot gases. Photoelectric detectors use a beam of light to sense if any smoke is in the air. This beam will form a straight line when the air is clear. The alarm will be triggered if it senses any smoke particles. Photoelectric detectors respond fast to smoldering fires with larger combustion particles and less heat. There are also dual sensor smoke alarms available, which are a combination of ionization and photoelectric detectors.
How do you test a smoke alarm?
Your smoke alarms should be tested once a month to make sure they are working properly. To test a smoke alarm, you simply push the test button and listen to see if it makes a loud sound. To test the sensor, spray an aerosol can of smoke or strong incense until the smoke makes the alarm go off. Be aware it may take a few minutes for the sound to stop.
As a general rule, smoke alarm batteries should be changed when the clocks change twice a year in fall and spring. Avoid using rechargeable batteries, as they will lose their charge without any warning.
Remember, smoke alarms have a lifespan of 10 years, even if you do perform monthly maintenance on it. They are vital when it comes to you and your family’s safety. Make sure you have the right insurance coverage, if a fire does occur.