Lt. Scott Ramage installs a smoke alarm for a senior citizen living in a condo.
| Get Alarmed!
Smoke alarms can saves lives if they are functioning properly, but studies show that most smoke alarms don't work because of missing, dead or disconnected batteries. In fact, most people die in fires because of the toxic smoke, not the flames. Deadly carbon monoxide suffocates the body, preventing it from receiving life-sustaining oxygen. People go into a lethargic state, and most people die before the fire even gets to them. Families who have working smoke alarms installed inside each sleeping area and in common areas such as a living room or hallway are more than 70 percent more likely to escape a fire unharmed. Marion County Fire Rescue provides and installs one dual-mode smoke alarm for residents of Marion County who cannot afford to purchase their own, free of charge. MCFR also expanded its "Get Alarmed" Smoke Alarm Program to include deaf/hard-of-hearing alarms in 2008. Call MCFR Headquarters at (352) 291-8000 for more information on the program and to see if you qualify for assistance.
Change Your Clocks; Change Your Batteries
Spring ahead; fall back. When you change the clocks ahead or back an hour when the time changes, firefighters recommend changing the batteries in your smoke alarms also.
Smoke Alarm Maintenance Tips:
- Test smoke alarms at least once a month by using the alarm's test button
- Replace the batteries at least twice a year or when the low battery alarm chirps
- Replace your smoke alarms every 10 years
- Never "borrow" a battery from your smoke alarms because you will likely forget to replace it
- Clean your smoke alarms in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions
Smoke Alarm Installation Tips:
- Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home, inside every sleeping area and in common areas such as a living room or hallway
- Mount smoke alarms high on walls about four to 12 inches from the ceiling or directly on the ceiling
- Don't install smoke alarms near windows, outside doors or ducts where drafts might interfere
- Don't paint your smoke alarms; paint and other decorations could prevent them from functioning properly
Other Safety Tips:
- People with hearing impairments should install smoke alarms with louder alarms or strobe lights
- A qualified electrician should install smoke alarms that are hard-wired to the home's electrical system
- Make sure everyone can hear the smoke alarm and knows how to get out of the house immediately
- People using fuel-powered appliances or generators should also install carbon monoxide alarms
- Brainstorm a fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year with family members
- Identify two exits from every room, which may include a door and window
- Stay low and go, keeping your head 12 to 24 inches above the floor when escaping
- Use the back of your hand to test doors for heat before exiting
- Choose a safe meeting place outside
- Get out and stay out; never go back inside a burning building for any reason
- Call 911 from outside a burning home from a neighbor's house or by using a cell phone outdoors; never assume someone else has called for help.
- Hire a professional to clean and inspect your chimney, furnace and space heaters once a year
- Keep combustibles, children and pets at least three feet from heat sources
- Burn candles only when adults are present and remember to blow them out when leaving a room
- Keep matches and lighters away from children
- Sleep with bedroom doors closed to slow a fire's progression
Different Types of Alarms Ionization
Ionization smoke alarms respond
faster to fast, flaming fires whereas
photoelectric alarms respond better
to slow, smoldering fires
MCFR recommends installing dual-mode
smoke alarms like these that use both
the ionization and photoelectric
technologies and offer double the protection.
Smoke alarms have a small amount of radioactive material between two electrically charged plates, which ionizes the air and causes current to flow between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts the flow of ions and reduces the flow of current, activating the alarm. Ionization alarms respond faster to fast, flaming fires.
Photoelectric alarms aim a light source into a sensing chamber at an angle away from the sensor. Smoke enters the chamber, reflecting light onto the light sensor, triggering the alarm.
Photoelectric alarms respond faster to slow, smoldering fires.
Since photoelectric alarms respond faster to smoldering fires and ionization alarms respond slightly faster to flaming fires, Marion County Fire Rescue recommends installing dual-mode alarms that use both technologies. These alarms are more expensive (retail price about $22), but since citizens can never predict the type of fire that will occur, this is money well spent. MCFR uses the "First Alert Ultimate Smoke and Fire Alarm" (right photo) for its "Get Alarmed" program. This alarm is nuisance resistant and features a dual sensor. The model number is SA302. To reach First Alert directly, call (800) 323-9005 Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Central Standard Time.