Learning About Smoke Detectors

By January 5, 2018Burn Safety

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the leading resource for information on fire and fire-related hazards, issues periodic reports on smoke alarms in the US. Recent data and statistics collected from 2009-2013 are shocking:

  • During this time period, only 53 percent of smoke alarms sounded in home fires reported to fire departments;
  • In approximately 20 percent of home fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound;
  • No smoke detectors were installed in 38 percent of home fire fatalities;
  • In sum, around 60 percent of deaths in home fires were linked to a lack of smoke detectors or alarms that were not functional;
  • Where fire alarms were present but did not sound, almost 50 percent were inoperable because of missing or disconnected batteries; and,
  • The leading reason smoke detectors were intentionally disabled was that the sound created a nuisance.

Types of Smoke Detectors and Alarms for Residential Properties

Fire-safety alarms can save lives, but it can be tough to choose a device with the hundreds of choices on the market. There are heat detecting units available, which activate when the temperature exceeds a certain level. However, smoke detectors are a preferred choice for many homeowners because they identify a threat faster than a heat sensing device. There are three different types of smoke detectors.

  1. Ionization: This type of alarm contains an ionization chamber, which is a space between two electrodes that have a small current running between them. When smoke enters the chamber and disrupts the current, the alarm will sound.
  2. Photoelectric: A light sensor is the key for a photoelectric smoke detector. When smoke is present, it interrupts and scatters the light beam, thereby activating the alarm.
  3. Combination: An alarm that merges the best features of both ionization and photoelectric technology is a combination smoke detector. An ionization alarm has the benefit of quick response to raging fires, while the photoelectric device will respond best to slow, smoldering fires.

To get the best coverage for your home and ensure the safety of its occupants, Consumer Reports has prepared a schematic outlining proper placement. The key points are to install combination alarms in bedrooms, family rooms, basements, and attics. You should also mount a photoelectric smoke detector in kitchens and hallways.

Proper Smoke Detector Maintenance

The “chirp” you hear emanating from a smoke detector is an indication that the batteries in your unit are low. While annoying, the proper response is to replace the battery to avoid being one of the nuisance statistics reported above. However, you do not need to wait until you hear the chirp: Batteries should be replaced twice a year.

In addition, you should test your smoke detectors monthly according to the manufacturer’s instruction. Keep in mind that the lifespan of an alarm is 10 years, so you will need to upgrade once per decade.

Talk to a Columbia Burn Injury Lawyer About Smoke Detector Safety

The best way to protect your home from fires is to learn about smoke detectors and use them properly, but casualties can still happen despite the exercise of caution. If you or a loved one was hurt as a result, please contact the lawyers Walker Morgan to schedule a case assessment. Our legal team has extensive experience helping burn injury victims, and we are happy to explain your options.

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