Smoke detectors in the home

  • Published
  • By James Palmer Jr.
  • 81st Infrastructure Division
Smoke detectors are important home safety tools because they increase the chance of escaping from a house fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the death rate from house fires in the homes without smoke detectors is twice as high as for those with working smoke detectors.

Smoke detectors are designed to issue a warning once they detect a fire. The detectors should alarm at about 85 decibels, so they can be heard through doors and wake sleeping occupants in the home. Smoke detectors always sound an alarm for a reason, but not always due to smoke or fire. If this should happen, do not disconnect the detector because of the nuisance alarm. Here are a few possible reasons for this problem:

1. Smoke detectors in family housing are hard-wired into the electrical system with a battery backup. This means the detector will go off for different reasons than smoke detectors with just batteries. Problems with the house's electrical system will cause false alarms. A loose wire in the smoke detector can cause it to go off as the electrical current is cut off and restored.

2. Changes in moisture, such as steam from showers or cooking, may set off a smoke detector. Dust can set off a smoke detector. Fanning the detector with newspaper or a sheet of paper may silence the alarm.

3. The detector is also equipped with a low-battery notification function that makes a repetitive beep when the battery power is nearly drained. The battery will need to be changed.

4. Dirt inside the smoke detector or the alarm's grill will also set off the chirping in the detector.

Clean the smoke detector at least once or twice per year and remove any debris that may be in the detector. If the smoke detector gets filled with dust, it will not be able to sense the smoke and alert individuals in the home who need to evacuate. Cleaning your smoke detector is the best way to make sure your detector is capable of alerting you when a fire occurs. You can do this with the brush attachment to your vacuum cleaner. The detector may sound when you are cleaning it.

In family housing, you should test your smoke detectors on a monthly basis by using the test button on the detector. In the event of a malfunction, contact Forest City's maintenance office to have the detector replaced or repaired.

During the year, always practice an exit fire evacuation drill with the occupants of your home. Use your smoke detector to sound the alarm. This would be a good time to test your smoke detector's operation to see if it will sound the alarm for evacuation.

For more information about smoke detectors in your home, call the fire department's fire prevention section, 228-377-3330 or 3333.