Of all the safety equipment in your home and office, smoke alarms offer you the most band for the buck. Properly maintained and positioned units can give you precious minutes to escape when they sense a problem. When the home is filling with smoke and fumes, every second counts.
The first automatic electric fire alarm was patented in 1890. Municipalities began to require residential smoke alarms in the 1970s. New designs continue to improve performance and lower the cost. Today’s smoke alarms are more technologically advanced to respond to a multitude of fire conditions, plus have fewer chances for false alarms.
The bottom line is that smoke alarms save lives and prevent costly fire damage cleanup. Units that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries.
Modern homes are more susceptible to rapid fire spread, according to a study by UL, a global safety certification company. The average U.S. home size has increased by 56% since 1980. The larger the home, the more air is available to sustain and grow a fire. Newer homes are also more likely to incorporate open floor plans, taller ceilings, great rooms, and two-story foyers, which can contribute to rapid smoke and fire spread.
UL states that four decades ago, victims had an average of 17 minutes to escape a burning home after the activation of a smoke alarm. Today, that time has dropped to 3 minutes or less. Homes incorporating more open layouts and lightweight construction materials, and new materials in furnishings, allow fires to spread much quicker.
Modern building materials and furnishings are also more likely to include faster-burning synthetic materials and/or combustible materials. In addition, modern windows and doors fail more rapidly than their legacy counterparts, which can allow more air in to fuel the fire.
A working system reduces your risk of dying in a fire by 50%– but only if it is working. Test your smoke alarms, ideally monthly, even if they have long-life batteries. Also, resist the urge to “borrow” a battery for remote controls or other devices.
Be disciplined about replacing both the batteries (every year) and the units (every ten years). A 2008 CDC-commissioned study found that after ten years, 22% of units were not working. Smoke alarms should be interconnected– when one sounds, they all sound.
Lastly, keep them free of dirt and dust. Use a vacuum hose or duster to remove damaging dirt. It may seem tedious at the moment, but it can save you from fire and having to deal with fire damage cleanup in the future.
The new smoke alarms are well worth the cost in lives saved and injuries prevented. But they are not a cure-all, and taking a few additional steps will help make your home and your family that much safer.
To keep your family safe, don’t forget the other pieces of the safety puzzle. You may have less than three minutes to escape a home fire so every second counts. Develop an exit plan with your family. For example, know two ways out of every room.
Another simple action could save your life. A closed-door gives a layer of protection between you and a fire by limiting oxygen flow, which may help prevent a fire from growing. Tests by UL’s Firefighter Safety Research Institute found that in the event of a fire, rooms with an open door showed temperatures over 1,000°F, while a room with a closed-door had temperatures at only 100°F.
If your home suffers fire damage, contact the fire damage cleanup experts at ICON Property Rescue Fires cause more damage than you’d expect- both obvious and hidden. In a crisis, get support from Covington’s fire damage cleanup and restoration experts.