Smoke Detectors

SMOKE DETECTORS – “Test them so you can trust them”

Fire kills an estimated 4,000 Americans every year. Another 30,000 people are seriously injured. Property damage from fire costs us at least $11.2 billion yearly. Most fire victims feel that fire would “never happen to them.”

More than 90 percent of fire deaths in buildings occur in residential dwellings. Although we like to feel safe at home, home is where we are at the greatest risk and where we must take the most precautions. Most deaths occur from inhaling smoke and toxins, not from the flames.

A Johns Hopkins University study, funded by the United States Fire Administration, found that 75 percent of residential fire deaths and 84 percent of residential fire injuries could have been prevented by smoke detectors.

Early detection and a planned fire escape are your best defense.

Choosing a smoke detector
When choosing a smoke detector, there are several things to consider. Think about which areas of the house you want to protect, where fire would be most dangerous, how many you will need, etc.

The Marysville Fire Department reccomends that every home have a smoke detector inside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. The International Fire Code requires this for new construction and that they be wired to sound together. Smoke detectors are not recommended for kitchens.

The safest bet is to have both kinds or a combination detector with a battery back up. Be sure to check for a testing laboratory label on the detector. It means that samples of that particular model have been tested under operating conditions. Check to see if it is easy to maintain and clean. Be sure batteries are easy to purchase and convenient to install.

There are two basic type of smoke detectors:

  1. Ionization detectors – Ionization detectors contain radioactive material that ionizes the air, making an electrical path. When smoke enters, the smoke molecules attach themselves to the ions. The change in electric current flow triggers the alarm. The radioactive material is called americium. It’s a radioactive metallic element produced by bombardment of plutonium with high energy neutrons. The amount is very small and not harmful.
  2. Photo-electric detectors – These type of detectors contain a light source (usually a bulb) and a photocell, which is activated by light. Light from the bulb reflects off the smoke particles and is directed towards the photocell. The photocell then is activated to trigger the alarm.

The placement of smoke detectors is very important. Sleeping areas need the most protection. Be sure to keep the detector away from fireplaces and wood stoves to avoid false alarms. Place smoke detectors at the top of each stairwell and at the end of each long hallway. Smoke rises easily through stairwells. If you should put a smoke detector in your kitchen, be sure to keep it away from cooking fumes or smoking areas.

Proper mounting of a smoke detector also is important. You can mount many detectors by yourself, but those connected to your household wiring should have their own separate circuit and be installed by a professional electrician. If you mount your detector on the ceiling, be sure to keep it at least 18 inches away from dead air space near walls and corners. If you mount it on the wall, place it six to 12 inches below the ceiling and away from corners. Keep them high because smoke rises.

Never place them any closer than three feet from an air register that might recirculate smoke. Don’t place them near doorways or windows where drafts could impair the detector operation. Don’t place them on an uninsulated exterior wall or ceiling. Temperature extremes can affect the batteries.

Keeping smoke detectors in good condition is easy. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to replace the batteries every year.. Most models will make a chirping or beeping sound when the battery is low. When this sound is heard, install a fresh battery, preferably an alkaline type.

Check the smoke detector every 30 days by releasing smoke or pushing the test button. Clean the detector face and grill work often to remove dust and grease. Never paint a smoke detector as it will hamper its function.

To answer any questions, request assistance mounting your smoke detector or to have a free home safety inspection email Marysville Fire Department or call (810) 364-6611

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