The Different Types of Smoke Alarms


The presence of a smoke alarm in a household can help to save lives if the unexpected occurs and a fire unfortunately breaks out. Be it during the day or at night, if a fire starts in your home, the accompanying smoke will progressively spread step by step through your home and, in the worst possible case, will fatally affect those who are asleep and are therefore unable to escape the flames. As the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states, "Three out of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms... No smoke alarms were present in more than one-third (37%) of the home fire deaths."
However, the installation of a smoke alarm can substantially aid homeowners when it comes to fire-related dangers throughout your property; a separate NFPA report concludes that "The risk of dying in reported home structure fires is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms." Therefore, whether it is a small business, a large corporate building, a midsized apartment complex or a single house, smoke alarms are a must. They should be placed on each level of your home, especially if you own a property that is split over numerous levels or different sections. An interesting FAQ can be found here: http://www.kidde.com/Documents/photo-ion-faq.pdf.
There are two different types of fire alarms: heat-sensitive detectors and smoke alarms. Smoke alarms are the more popular choice seeing as they are more reliable and are able to sense fires faster than heat detector alarms. There are three smoke alarm types available on the market at present: photoelectric alarms, ionization alarms, and photoelectric/ionization combo alarms.
Photoelectric smoke alarms work through the use of a light source, where any smoke particles that are in close proximity to the alarm itself will obscure the light and the sensor will set off the alarm. Ionization smoke alarms, on the other hand, are activated if smoke is sensed by the detector, although this generally takes more time for the alarm to be triggered. Combination photoelectric/ionization alarms are probably the best alarm to choose, seeing as they function by sensing both smoke and variations in light.
The most popular places for smoke alarms to be placed are in kitchens or hallways, although it is also typical for them to also be placed in bedrooms, which will help to wake you up in the event of a fire during the night. In certain states, such as Minneapolis, photoelectric smoke alarms should be placed within 20 feet of a cooking appliance and equipped with a silencing switch (http://www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@regservices/documents/webcontent/convert_285482.pdf). Because smoke alarms are cheap to purchase, they should be placed in every room, regardless of the size (or function) of the room.
As reported on UL.com, "20 percent of American homes do not have working smoke alarms. A study indicated that the primary reason for non-working smoke alarms is missing or dead batteries." Therefore, it is highly encouraged that you check that the alarm is working on a regular basis, as well as replacing the alarm once every 8-10 years given that they are so inexpensive. For more information on this serious matter, a helpful NFPA fact sheet that features some handy tips and statistics can be viewed here: http://www.nfpa.org/~/media/Files/Safety%20information/Safety%20tip%20sheets/smokealarms.pdf.

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