By Ryan Peters, Fire Captain, Aptos La Selva Fire Protection District
What a winter we’ve had! Water in the form of rain and snow has been falling all over California since early November. In the Sierras, there have been reports of over 680 inches of snow received this season, which is a truly remarkable figure. Rainy days and cold dark nights have now given way to the coming of spring.
On Saturday, March 11 daylight savings time began. The annual “spring forward” day has us move our clocks ahead by one hour. Besides making sure you get to work on time, 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 per year were fatally injured in fires in which smoke alarms were present but failed to operate. Power source problems were 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. 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.
An interconnected smoke alarm system 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 and sounds, all the alarms within your home will sound. Statistically, most house fire deaths occur overnight while people are sleeping. These types of interconnected systems ensure that everyone throughout the house will be properly notified with enough time 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 a smoke alarm telling you that it would like a new battery. Change smoke alarm batteries twice a year when the spring and fall time changes to ensure that you always have fresh and serviceable battery power in your smoke alarm systems.
What kind of smoke alarms are the best for home fire safety? There are two different types of smoke alarms; Photoelectric and Ionization. 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 smoke alarms better detect flaming fires. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends having both technologies installed. Fortunately, there are smoke detector manufacturers making combination units that utilize both technologies.
With spring on its way, today is a great day to check your smoke alarm systems. After you change your batteries, press the test button to make sure the audible alarm is functioning properly and then testing once a month to make sure your alarms are ready to go.
For those who may have family members who are hard of hearing or extremely heavy sleepers, there is a ton of great information on the web. Bed shakers, strobe lights, and other fire notification systems are available to improve fire safety within the residential setting.
For more information please visit the NFPA website at www.nfpa.org or stop by any one of our fire stations if you’d like to discuss smoke alarms or home fire safety with one of our crews or call (831) 685-6690 or visit us at www.aptosfire.com