It’s Time to Check Our Smoke Alarms
By Captain Ryan Peters, Aptos-La Selva Fire District
Fall is here! It’s officially the time of year where our fire crews at the Aptos-La Selva Fire District begin to shift gears from summer mode into winter mode. While the California fire season usually extends well into fall, we are preparing for the rainy season and all of the risks associated with winter weather. Crews will be hard at work over the next couple of months making sure our community is prepared and safe for weather-related incidents. With all the preparation taking place ahead of the winter season, it all starts with one simple task. Let’s all check our smoke alarms.
On Sunday, November 4 Daylight Saving Time will end. The annual “Fall Back” day has us move our clocks back by one hour. Aside from enjoying the extra hour of sleep, the most important thing to do this time of year is making sure you check, replace, or install smoke alarms within your homes.
According to a 2015 report done by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in the years 2009-2013, fires in homes with no smoke alarms caused an average of 940 deaths per year (approximately 38% of home fire deaths). An additional 510 people died in fires where smoke alarms were present but failed to operate with dead batteries the leading cause of smoke alarm failures.
Smoke alarms were present in 73% of reported house fires but operated in only 53% of those incidents. What that tells us is that we need to make sure smoke alarms are not only installed in every household, but that they are also properly powered and working.
Smoke alarms clearly save lives as the risk of dying in a house fire is cut in half in homes with a working alarm system. So, how do we go about making sure our homes are as fire safe as possible? First, install smoke alarms in every sleeping room and outside each separate sleeping area. Make sure that smoke alarms are installed within each level of your home, including basements. Your smoke alarms should also be installed at the highest points of your ceiling. Since heat and smoke tend to rise, this ensures that the alarm can give you and your family the earliest notification possible.
Interconnected smoke alarm systems, which are powered by your home’s electricity with an installed battery back up is one of the better fire safety improvements you can make. When one alarm activates, all the alarms within your home will sound. Statistically, most house fire deaths occur overnight while people are sleeping. Interconnected systems ensure that everyone in the house will be notified to evacuate to safety.
Modern smoke alarms are good for 10 years of service. To be safe, check the manufacture date on the casing of the alarm and replace if necessary.
Low battery power will result in an intermittent “chirping” sounding from the smoke alarm telling you that it needs a new battery. To be sure the alarm has a good battery, change batteries twice a year with the spring and fall time changes.
What kind of smoke alarms are the best for home fire safety? There are two types: Photoelectric and Ionization. Both flaming fires and smoldering fires introduce products of combustion (heat, gas, light) at different rates. Photoelectric smoke alarms are more responsive to smoldering fires while the Ionization alarms are better suited to detect flaming fires. Fortunately, there are smoke detector manufacturers now making combination units that utilize both technologies.
With winter on its way, check your smoke alarm systems. After you put new batteries in, press the test button to make sure the audible alarm is functioning properly. I’d suggest testing once a month to make sure your alarms are functioning. Testing your smoke alarms with the kids is a great teaching tool and will instill good fire safety habits around the house.
For those who may have family members who are hard of hearing or extremely heavy sleepers, bed shakers, strobe lights, and other fire notification systems are available to improve fire safety within the residential setting. Please feel free to stop by one of our fire stations to discuss smoke alarms or home fire safety with our crews. Happy fall!
For more information please visit the National Fire Protections Association website at www.nfpa.org. To speak with the Aptos/La Selva Fire District about home fire safety please call (831) 685-6690 or visit us at www.aptosfire.com