Fire Safety Friday: Smoke Alarms - Quicken Loans Zing BlogThe root of October as Fire Safety Month goes all the way back to the Chicago Fire of October 1871. It devastated and pretty much leveled the entire city. Preventing your home from a fire takes diligence and awareness. Small changes and some fire safety tips can prevent potential disasters.

The first items you should take a look at are the smoke alarms around your home. You’ve probably heard you should check them at least once a year, but there are other things you should also consider when it comes to your smoke detectors.

Placement of Smoke Alarms
Install smoke detectors away from windows, air vents, and doors. Having them close to areas with airflow may interfere with the function of the alarm. Placing them a few feet from windows, doors, or vents high on the wall or ceiling will ensure they function properly.

Fire-safety experts suggest that you place smoke detectors inside or just outside the door of all bedrooms or sleeping areas. Obviously you’ll want the alarm to wake you and your family if you’re sleeping in case a fire begins. Try placing the alarms in their permanent positions, and then test them out with your family members on a random night (preferably not a school night) to make sure they wake everyone up.

Placing smoke alarms near wood stoves or fireplaces that give off subtle smoke fumes may cause false positives, so place them several feet away to avoid this problem. I know that the smoke alarm in our kitchen always goes off when I cook because it’s placed right above the stovetop. Make sure to place them a few feet from these areas so you don’t get annoyed by them constantly going on off. When the alarms go off frequently, people often take the batteries out so they stop chirping. If you do take the batteries out, don’t forget to replace them! Write yourself a note or something so you put the batteries back where they belong.

Ionization vs. Photoelectric
The two most common styles of smoke detectors are ionization and photoelectric. The National Fire Protection Association notes that ionization smoke alarms go off when smoke enters the detector and interferes with the flow of ions across an ion strip. They add that this type of alarm is best for non-smoldering fires.

The National Fire Protection Association explains that photoelectric alarms, on the other hand, contain a beam of light pointed into a specific sensor chamber. The light, however, isn’t pointed directly at the sensor inside, so when the smoke fills the chamber, it bends the light and hits the light sensor in the alarm. A photoelectric alarm best detects smoldering, smoky fires.

So which smoke detector is the best? It’s hard to say. Both the ionization and photoelectric alarms work well for different types of fires. Since you never know what type of fire may happen in your home, fire safety experts recommend having both types located throughout your house.

Smoke Alarms for the Hearing Impaired
If someone in your home has hearing problems, make sure that the smoke detectors in their residence are specifically designed to meet their needs. These types of alarms use strobe lights or send vibrations to a device located near or under the person’s pillow.

Maintenance of Your Smoke Alarm
Most of us probably just stick with changing the batteries every year, but there are more things you can do to ensure your smoke alarm always works properly. Make sure to read the instructions that come with the alarm when you purchase it. Also, dust them off once a month to make sure they’re free of debris that could block smoke from entering the detectors. Don’t forget to test them once a month, per the manufacturer directions.

Whether you plan to build a new home or buy a pre-existing home, make sure to check the placement of smoke alarms, be aware of what type of alarm you have, and take a few minutes each month to check for any potential problems. Ensuring that your smoke detector works properly gives you and your family valuable time to safely evacuate your home in the event of a fire.


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