Home Smoke Alarms
We discuss the two types, Ionizing and Optical, smoke alarms
Installing a smoke alarm is the single most important thing you can do to protect your home and family from fire. There is a 50% higher fatality rate from fires in homes not fitted with smoke alarms. Smoke alarms detect smoke before you would be able to smell it yourself and so provide an early warning system, giving valuable time for you and your family to escape. Many fires start during the night and without a smoke alarm you could be in serious trouble. Most fire fatalities are caused by smoke inhalation and even the lightest sleeper would not be woken before the smoke from a fire has done irreparable damage.
What you need to know about installation
Different home smoke alarms have different detection methods. The most common are ionization alarms that detect free-burning fires before there is much smoke. Optical alarms detect slow-burning fires such as electrical wiring and so are less prone to go off when you burn the toast. Combined detectors are probably the best option as they detect both free and slow burning fires and are not much more expensive than either one separately.
Most smoke alarms are battery operated. The majority take standard batteries which need checking and replacing regularly. It’s possible to purchase a smoke alarm that takes 10-year batteries which obviously reduces the need to check the batteries considerably. If you want to eliminate this need all together, then you could install a mains powered alarm, though these are less commonly available and still require a battery for back-up in case of a power cut.
Its possible to purchase smoke alarms with additional features. An emergency light can help you see your way to the exit if the power has been cut or the smoke is thick. A strobe light is a great addition for those who are hard of hearing, as it would wake even a heavy sleeper. Smoke alarms need to be fitted on every floor of your house, including the basement and attic. As smoke rises, alarms are typically fitted to ceilings or high up on walls.
Its important to remember that merely having a smoke alarm does not necessarily mean you’re out of danger. Installing insufficient alarms, putting them in the wrong place, forgetting to change the batteries and even having removed and not replaced the batteries will leave you in danger. There’s no excuse for not having one and if you’ve got one, use it properly.