Smoke detectors are devices that are mounted on the wall or
ceiling and automatically sound a warning when they sense smoke or
other products of combustion. When people are warned early enough
about a fire, they can escape before it spreads. Prices start at
about $6 and up. To Find Out If You qualify For A Free Smoke
Detector Call SVFC at 410-943-3545.
Every year thousands of people die from fires in the home. Fire
kills an estimated 4,000 Americans every year. Another 30,000
people are seriously injured by fire each year. Property damage
from fire costs us at least $11.2 billion yearly. Most fire
victims feel that fire would "never happen to them."
Although we like to feel safe at home, about two-thirds of our
nation's fire deaths happen in the victim's own home. The home is
where we are at the greatest risk and where we must take the most
precautions. Most deaths occur from inhaling smoke or poisonous
gases, not from the flames.
Most fatal fires occur in residential buildings between 11 p.m.
and 6 a.m. when occupants are more likely to be asleep. More than
90 percent of fire deaths in buildings occur in residential
A Johns Hopkins University study, funded by the United States Fire
Administration, found that 75 percent of residential fire deaths
and 84 percent of residential fire injuries could have been
prevented by smoke detectors.
There are two basic type of smoke detectors:
1.Ionization detectors - Ionization detectors contain
radioactive material that ionizes the air, making an electrical
path. When smoke enters, the smoke molecules attach themselves to
the ions. The change in electric current flow triggers the alarm.
The radioactive material is called americium. It's a radioactive
metallic element produced by bombardment of plutonium with high
energy neutrons. The amount is very small and not harmful.
2.Photo-electric detectors - These type of detectors
contain a light source (usually a bulb) and a photocell, which is
activated by light. Light from the bulb reflects off the smoke
particles and is directed towards the photocell. The photocell
then is activated to trigger the alarm.
Choosing a smoke detector
When choosing a smoke detector, there are several things to
consider. Think about which areas of the house you want to
protect, where fire would be most dangerous, how many you will
The Palm Springs Fire Department recommends that every home have a
smoke detector outside each sleeping area (inside as well if
members of the household sleep with the door closed) and on every
level of the home. The National Fire code requires a smoke
detector inside each sleeping area for new construction. On floors
without bedrooms, detectors should be installed in or near living
areas, such as dens, living rooms or family rooms. Smoke detectors
are not recommended for kitchens.
The safest bet is to have both kinds or a combination detector
with a battery back up. Be sure to check for a testing laboratory
label on the detector. It means that samples of that particular
model have been tested under operating conditions. Check to see if
it is easy to maintain and clean. Be sure bulbs and batteries are
easy to purchase and convenient to install.
The placement of smoke detectors is very important. Sleeping areas
need the most protection. One detector in a short hallway outside
the bedroom area is usually adequate. Hallways longer than 30 feet
should have one at each end. For maximum protection, install a
detector in each bedroom.
Be sure to keep the detector away from fireplaces and wood stoves
to avoid false alarms. Place smoke detectors at the top of each
stairwell and at the end of each long hallway. Smoke rises easily
through stairwells. If you should put a smoke detector in your
kitchen, be sure to keep it away from cooking fumes or smoking
Proper mounting of a smoke detector also is important. You can
mount many detectors by yourself, but those connected to your
household wiring should have their own separate circuit and be
installed by a professional electrician. If you mount your
detector on the ceiling, be sure to keep it at least 18 inches
away from dead air space near walls and corners. If you mount it
on the wall, place it six to 12 inches below the ceiling and away
from corners. Keep them high because smoke rises.
Never place them any closer than three feet from an air register
that might recirculate smoke. Don't place them near doorways or
windows where drafts could impair the detector operation. Don't
place them on an uninsulated exterior wall or ceiling. Temperature
extremes can affect the batteries.
Keeping smoke detectors in good condition is easy. Always follow
the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to replace the batteries
every year or as needed. Most models will make a chirping, popping
or beeping sound when the battery is losing its charge. When this
sound is heard, install a fresh battery, preferably an alkaline
Replace bulbs every three years or as needed. Keep extras handy.
Check the smoke detector every 30 days by releasing smoke or
pushing the test button. Clean the detector face and grillwork
often to remove dust and grease. Never paint a smoke detector as
it will hamper its function. Check your detector if you've been
away from home.
If you're looking for a novel gift for somebody, consider giving
them a smoke detector. It's an interesting gift that can save
lives and it shows that you care.