Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fire Safety Part One: Smoke Alarms

I have decided to concentrate my blog on a subject that I feel is very important. As a firefighter, fire safety is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I don’t care what people think, but true dedicated firefighters don’t want to come to your home or business to put out a fire if it can be avoided. We would much rather that you are safe. Fires are devastating, potentially deadly events that even on a small scale cause undue heartache and grief to those involved. I am going to break this down into five parts. Each one giving an overview of fire safety from the perspective of a firefighter but broken down into wording and terms a citizen will understand.

The first subject concerns smoke alarms, their placement, their maintenance and replacement and what not to do to your smoke alarm.

A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the only thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you’re awake or asleep, a working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.

Smoke alarms should be at a minimum placed on every level of your home, the basement included. Many fatal fires begin late at night or in the early morning so I recommend that you place smoke alarms in every sleeping area of your home also. Early warning is a key to saving your life and the lives of those you love.

Smoke alarms, whether of the 9-volt, 10 year lithium, or hardwired variety need to be maintained. General guidelines are as follows:

Smoke alarms powered by a 9-volt battery should be tested monthly. Replace the batteries at least once per year and the entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.

Smoke alarms powered by a 10-year lithium (or “long life”) battery should be tested monthly. Since you cannot and should not attempt to replace the lithium battery, the entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Smoke alarm that is hardwired into the home’s electrical system tested monthly. The backup battery should be replaced at least once per year and the entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.

Finally, never, ever disable a smoke alarm while cooking. A smoke alarm is just doing its job when it sounds while you’re cooking or taking a shower with lots of steam.

If a smoke alarm sounds while you’re cooking or taking a shower with lots of steam, do not remove the battery. You should open a window or door and press the “hush” button, wave a towel at the alarm to clear the air, or move the entire alarm several feet away from the location. Disabling a smoke alarm or removing the battery can be a deadly mistake.

Did I say that you should NEVER, EVER, EVER disable your smoke alarm because you are cooking? Ok, I did but I really wanted to emphasize the fact that the consequences can be deadly if you disable your smoke alarm.

Next up: Bedroom Fire Safety

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