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Smoke Detectors: Critical Tool in Saving Life & Property  

Smoke detectors, when properly selected and properly installed, serve as the single most important factor of whether a family will escape a home fire or not.  Statistics show that the risk of dying is twice as high in a home without working smoke detectors than in a home with working smoke detectors.

Please contact the West Chester Fire Department if you have any questions on the type or location of smoke detectors in your home or for a free home safety inspection.  Please call (513) 777-1133 to schedule an appointment

 

The West Chester Fire Department recommends that a working smoke detector be installed on every level of your home and at a minimum, one inside every sleeping area.  Early smoke detection and alarm notification is needed so occupants can escape before conditions become too bad to escape.  It is vitally important that everyone living in the home practice fire drills so they understand how to get out quickly in the event a smoke detector sounds.

 

Types of detectors

There are two main types of smoke detectors on the market, Ionization and Photoelectric.  Each detector is designed to activate depending on the type of fire.  Ionization detectors are designed to detect hot, flaming fires.  Photoelectric detectors are designed to detect smoldering, smoky fires.  A third type of smoke detector exists, known as a dual sensor smoke detector.  These detectors combine both Ionization and Photoelectric technology. 

While a properly installed and maintained smoke detector of either technology provides a critical baseline of protection, it is strongly recommended installing at least one smoke detector of each type in your home, or the dual-sensor detectors. Only purchase detectors that are tested and listed by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory. 

Maintaining smoke detectors

It is vitally important to note that smoke detectors are only effective if they are maintained in operable condition.  Nineteen percent of the smoke detectors present in reported home fires had dead or discharged batteries. Smoke detectors should never be disabled and batteries should be replaced periodically. A simple rule is when it's time to change clocks; it's time to change the batteries.  Also, consider smoke detectors designed with long-life (nominal 10-year) non-replaceable batteries.

Cooking is the leading cause of nuisance alarms at home. Users often disable smoke detectors that produce frequent unwanted alarms. The recommendation is not to locate smoke detectors in close proximity to a cooking appliance.  It is recommended installing ionization smoke detectors further away from fixed cooking appliances and bathrooms than photoelectric alarms to avoid nuisance activations caused by smoke from cooking and steam from showers.

Smoke detectors cannot last forever and must be replaced when they fail to respond to periodic tests, or no later than 10 years from the marked date of manufacture.  Homeowners are encouraged to upgrade battery-operated smoke detectors with approved hard-wired smoke detectors with battery backup.  Inter-connecting smoke detectors allow for faster notification of occupants in areas remote from where initial ignition occurs in the home.  A smoke detector without a battery is like not having one at all.  Never remove a battery from a smoke detector or remove a smoke detector from where it was properly installed.

The West Chester Fire Department encourages every family to familiarize themselves with the dangers of smoke and fire. Families should have an exit plan from their home and every family member should know two ways out of the house. Children must be taught what to do if the smoke detector sounds.

Additionally, the safety practice of testing all home smoke detectors on a regular schedule and replacing the batteries if they do not sound during the test is vitally important to your family's safety.  

Installing Smoke Detectors

  • Choose smoke detectors that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory
  • Install smoke detectors inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home (inlcuding the basement)
  • On levels without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room, family room or den, or near the stairway to the upper level
  • Smoke alarms installed in the basement should be installed on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairway leading to the next level
  • Smoke alarms should be installed at least 10 feet from a cooking appliance to minimize false alarms when cooking
  • Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Wall-mounted alarms should be installed not more than 12 inches away from the ceiling
  • If ceilings are pitched, install the alarm within three feet of the peak but not in the apex of the peak
  • Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation
  • Never paint smoke alarms as paint, stickers or other decorations could affect operation
  • For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms so when one sounds they all sound. This can be achieved using hard-wiring or wireless technology
  • When interconnected, it is important that all alarms are from the same manufacturer