Why should I have a working smoke alarm?
A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the only thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you’re awake or asleep, a working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2003-2006, more than 66 percent of home fire deaths occurred in homes without a working smoke alarm. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.
There are many different brands of smoke alarms available on the market, but they fall under two basic types: ionization and photoelectric.
It cannot be stated definitively that one is better than the other in every fire situation that could arise in a residence. Because both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting distinctly different, yet potentially fatal fires, and because no one can predict what type of fire might start in a home, the US Fire administration recommends that every residence and place where people sleep be equipped with:
- Both ionization AND photoelectric smoke alarms, OR
- dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors
In addition to the basic types of alarms, there are alarms made to meet the needs of people with hearing disabilities. These alarms may use strobe lights that flash and/or vibrate to assist in alerting those who are unable to hear standard smoke alarms when they sound.
Smoke alarms are powered by battery or they are hardwired into the home’s electrical system. If the smoke alarm is powered by battery, it runs on either a disposable 9-volt battery or a non-replaceable 10-year lithium (“long-life”) battery. A backup battery is usually present on hardwired alarms and may need to be replaced.
These batteries must be tested on a regular basis and, in most cases, should be replaced at least once each year (except for lithium batteries). See the Smoke Alarm Maintenance section for more information.
Smoke alarms are not expensive and are worth the lives they can help save. Ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms cost between $6 and $20. Dual sensor smoke alarms cost between $24 and $40.
Some fire departments offer reduced price, or even free, smoke alarms. Contact your local fire department’s non-emergency phone number for more information.
Explorers will be required to attend public safety events on a monthly basis. Events include the Kern County Fair, Parades, Open Houses at Fire Stations, etc.
Note: These events will take the place of meetings if the event is on the 1st or 3rd Saturday of the month.
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Many fatal fires begin late at night or early in the morning, so the U.S. Fire Administration recommends installing smoke alarms both inside and outside of sleeping areas.
Since smoke and many deadly gases rise, installing your smoke alarms at the proper level will provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
Some fire departments will install battery-operated smoke alarms in your home at no cost. Contact your local fire department’s non-emergency phone number for more information.
Hardwired smoke alarms should be installed by a qualified electrician.
s your smoke alarm still working? Smoke alarms must be maintained! A smoke alarm with a dead or missing battery is the same as having no smoke alarm at all.
A smoke alarm only works when it is properly installed and maintained. Depending on how your smoke alarm is powered (9-volt, 10-year lithium, or hardwired), you’ll have to maintain it according to manufacturer’s instructions. General guidelines for smoke alarm maintenance:
Test the alarm monthly.
Replace the batteries at least once per year.
The entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.
- Test the alarm monthly.
- Since you cannot (and should not) replace the lithium battery, the entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Test the alarm monthly.
- The backup battery should be replaced at least once per year.
- The entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.
A smoke alarm is just doing its job when it sounds while you’re cooking or taking a shower with lots of steam.
- If a smoke alarm sounds while you’re cooking or taking a shower with lots of steam, do not remove the battery. You should:
- Open a window or door and press the hush” button,
- Wave a towel at the alarm to clear the air, or
- Move the entire alarm several feet away from the location.
Disabling a smoke alarm or removing the battery can be a deadly mistake.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Why should I have a working Carbon Monoxide alarm?
Each year in America, unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning claims more than 400 lives and sends another 20,000 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.
CO gas can come from several sources: gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces and motor vehicles.
Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Medical experts believe that unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens and people with heart or lung problems are at even greater risk for CO poisoning.
If no one is feeling ill:
- Silence the alarm.
- Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (i.e. furnace and fireplace).
- Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows.
- Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup.
If illness is a factor:
- Evacuate all occupants immediately.
- Determine how many occupants are ill and determine their symptoms.
- Call your local emergency number and when relaying information to the dispatcher, include the number of people feeling ill.
- Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a fire department representative.
- Call a qualified professional to repair the source of the CO.
- Install at least one carbon monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal near the sleeping areas and outside individual bedrooms. Make sure the alarm has been evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Carbon monoxide alarms measure levels of CO over time and are designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. It is very possible that you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear the alarm. This does not mean that CO is not present.
- Have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems at least once a year.
- Never use your range or oven to help heat your home and never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage.
- Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.
- When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house. The presence of a carbon monoxide alarm in your home can save your life in the event of CO buildup.