Smoke alarms are an important part of your household, one that is often neglected. Whether you live in an apartment or a house, you need to have a working smoke alarm that you can depend on. Many fire deaths happen at night or in the early hours of the morning because people are asleep.
A lot of these deaths are due to smoke inhalation and breathing other toxic gases like carbon monoxide. Fires spread quickly but with a good smoke alarm, it can detect it and give you the best chance of survival. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about these alarm systems.
1. Types Of Smoke Alarms
There are generally two types of smoke alarms: ionization and photoelectric. Ionization smoke alarms are good at detecting fast, flaming fires. It is also good for detecting smoke from flammable liquids and for grease fires in the kitchen. The photoelectric kind is good for detecting the slower, smouldering kind of fire. It can also detect smoke from bedding and furnishing that is caused by a cigarette.
2. Power Source
Most of the fire alarms are powered by batteries but can also be powered by electricity. The most common ones use a 9-volt battery which is the rectangular battery with 2 metallic things at the top which you have to fit in properly in the alarm. These batteries need to be changed on a yearly basis. Sometimes, the alarm may chirp intermittently. This is a sign that you battery needs to be changed.
Some alarms use a lithium battery. These guys can last up to 10 years. You cannot change the battery once it is closed and installed. The hard-wired ones use electricity, though it may have a back-up battery. These should only be installed by a qualified electrician or technician.
3. Location Of Installation
Before installing a fire alarm, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first thing is that most fires will generally start in the kitchen. The second thing to remember is that you want to be able to warn those who are sleeping. If you have a house with more than one level, it is important to install a fire alarm on every level, including your basement. Place a smoke alarm in hallways that lead to your bedroom, the living room and near other family rooms. Place alarms high on walls or ceilings because hot gases and smoke will rise.
When installing a smoke alarm on the ceiling, make sure it is at least 10 cm, away from the wall. Do not place alarms in the kitchen or in or near a bathroom. This could set off the alarm unnecessarily. Exhaust and steam can set it off. Also, don’t install one near a window as this could interfere in the way it works.
Make sure to keep it dust-free. Regularly use a vacuum cleaner so that dust does not build up and obstruct the sensitive electronics. Replace the batteries yearly. The whole alarm should be replaced after 8-10 years. Do not obstruct it in any way such as with paint or stickers. Press the button on a monthly basis to see that it is in good working order.
Research has shown that homes with proper working fire alarms result in fewer deaths and serious injury when compared to homes with no alarms or faulty ones. There are those who remove the battery because of nuisance ‘false alarms’. This is against the law. Maintain the alarm properly and make sure the battery is working to keep yourself and your family safe.