Fire Prevention Week is observed each year during the week of October 9th in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Fire Systems, Inc. observes this week as a way of educating our own community on critical fire safety tips. We believe that one of the best ways to prevent fire emergencies is through preparation and education.

The sounds of safety

This year’s FPW campaign, “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety!”, aims to educate everyone about the different sounds the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms make. Knowing what to do when an alarm sound can help to keep you and your family or coworkers safe. Through this campaign, the NFPA reminds us, “When an alarm makes noises – a beeping sound or a chirping sound – you must act.”

Organizations such as the NFPA create fire codes like NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, to protect the public. NFPA 72 is important for many reasons, namely that it outlines the requires for how and where smoke alarms should be installed in your home.

Per the NFPA press release announcing FPW 20201, here are some safety tips to help you “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety:”

  • A continuous set of three loud beeps—beep, beep, beep—means smoke or fire. Get out, call 9-1-1, and stay out.
  • A single chirp every 30 or 60 seconds means the battery is low and must be changed.
  • All smoke alarms must be replaced after 10 years.
  • Chirping that continues after the battery has been replaced means the alarm is at the end of its life and the unit must be replaced.
  • Make sure your smoke and CO alarms meet the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities.

How does a smoke alarm work?

A smoke alarm detects the presence of smoke, not heat.

There are two types of smoke alarms: photoelectric and ionization. Ionization smoke alarms respond more quickly to flaming fires that burn rapidly (for example, fires caused by flammable liquids or cooking grease). Photoelectric smoke alarms are designed to respond to slower, smoldering fires producing a lot of smoke. These fires are typically a result of electrical issues for example and involve slow burning materials like carpeting or bedding. Combination smoke alarms include both types of sensors and are available as a third option.

A smoke alarm is a self-contained unit that “contains the sensor that is constantly monitoring for smoke and the audible alarm that activates to warn the occupants if smoke is detected.” So, when you hear a smoke alarm go off, it means that smoke has been detected. A smoke detector is not the same thing. A smoke detector is connected to a circuit of other devices as part of a fire alarm system and can only signal to the fire alarm control if smoke is detected. An alarm will then sound from the fire alarm panel to evacuate. Smoke detectors are typically seen in commercial buildings like schools or shopping malls. Smoke alarms are designed for use in residential buildings, or smaller occupancies.

Maintaining your smoke alarm

Did you know that roughly 3 out of 5 fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms? Devices like smoke and carbon monoxide alarms save lives- but an inoperable device does nothing.

To be sure your alarms are in working order, follow these tips for testing and maintenance:

  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button.
  • Make sure everyone in the home understands the sound of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning to keep smoke alarms working. The instructions are included in the package or can be found on the internet.
  • Change the smoke alarm batteries once a year and anytime the smoke alarm “chirps” the low battery warning signal.
  • Install all new alarms every 10 years.

Placement of smoke alarms is another consideration to be sure your alarms work as intended. NFPA code outlines where smoke alarms should be installed, and how many. For example, a smoke alarm should be installed in every bedroom, and outside of each sleeping area and on every level of your home. This includes the basement. Proper placement ensures everyone can hear the alarm and act fast.

 Considerations for the deaf

 People who are hard of hearing or deaf use special alarms that have visual alerting methods like strobe lights and even bed shakers.

Healthy Hearing suggests three options for the hard of hearing. These include:

  • Strobe lights: Instead of relying simply on sound, the flash from strobe alarms gives a visual cue about dangers. Look for one that has an intensity high enough to wake someone up.
  • Vibration: Sleeping is a particularly high-risk time when it comes to fires. Alarms that make the pillow or bed vibrate (“bed shakers”) help wake people up.
  • Interconnected alarms: With this system, when one alarm goes off, all of them do—the bed shakes, lights flash, sounds blare, etc. Just as you would do with traditional smoke alarms, these specialty alarms should be installed on all floors of your home and be tested on a regular basis.

What smoke alarm do I need for my home?

 A combination ionization-photoelectric alarm or dual sensor smoke alarm is best for homes.

It’s also recommended to have interconnected smoke alarms so that when one alarm sounds, all other alarms in the home will sound as well. Just keep in mind that an electrician will need to install battery-operated wireless interconnected smoke alarms. Whatever alarm you choose, NFPA warns to be sure that the smoke alarm is listed by a qualified testing laboratory.

Fire Systems, Inc.

At Fire Systems, Inc., we care about the safety and wellbeing of our community. We are advocates for fire safety messaging aimed at the prevention of fire emergencies like those presented during Fire Prevention Week. Smoke alarms are critical, life-saving devices.

If you’d like more information on protecting your place of business from the dangers of fire, please contact us today at 770-333-7979 or visit our website for a full list of our services. We can help you design a fire protection system specific to the needs of your business. From design to install, maintenance to repair, let our highly trained expert technicians protect your business.