Everybody has turned on the news at some point and seen the devastating result of a residential house fire. Entire homes can be destroyed and families left in ruin. Even though the majority of residential fires usually happen by accident, the use of properly installed and maintained smoke alarms can mean the difference between life and death.
According to the USFA, two-thirds of all fire related deaths occur on properties that did not have smoke alarms on the premises. This should be reason enough to want smoke alarms in your home. Before picking out your smoke alarms, there are a few things to consider.
Not all smoke alarms are the same. The two main types to have are ionization and photoelectric. The USFA suggests having alarms that use both types of detection.
The sensor chamber of an ionization alarm has two electrically charged plates. There is a small amount of radioactive material between the two plates that works to ionize the air. When the smoke particles enter into the sensor chamber it immediately begins disrupting the flow of ions, triggering the alarm. The radioactive material used in the smoke alarms is a miniscule amount and is called americium-241. It has very low radiation and cannot penetrate through anything as thin as a piece of paper. The ionization smoke detector is best for detecting the quick moving flames.
A photoelectric smoke detectors use light and a sensor in the chamber. When smoke enters into the sensor chamber, the beams of light become interrupted by the smoke, and reflect a different angle which triggers the sensor. Photoelectric smoke detectors respond more quickly to the smoldering fires, like a mattress fire.
It is best to choose a combination of photoelectric and ionization to install throughout your house. It is hard to predict whether your house would fall victim to a smoldering or flaming fire. Smoke alarms should be placed on all levels of the house, focusing on areas of each floor that are close to bedrooms. The next thing to consider are whether you want battery operated alarms or ones that are wired into the house. Wired alarms are easier to maintain because you do not need to check the battery life, however they are more costly to install properly. Battery operated alarms can be a cheaper option, but you will need to make sure to routinely check the battery to make sure it is functioning properly. An easy way to remember when to change the batteries is daylight savings time. “Change your clock, change your batteries.”
Now that you have chosen the alarms that work for you and the placement for them in your house, if you are still concerned about your safety, you can always consult with your local fire department. Most local fire departments will be happy to come check your home to make sure your home and family are properly protected against fire danger.
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