Types Of Smoke Alarms
Residential smoke alarms use two types of technologies: ionization and/or photoelectric. Each type has been found to generally respond best to different types of fires in studies by Underwriters Laboratories and the National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Protection Research Foundation. Ionization smoke alarms respond best to flaming fires, and photoelectric to smoldering fires.
The National Fire Protection Association and the International Association of Fire Chiefs both recommend installing both types of alarms, or dual alarms that incorporate both technologies.
Basic smoke alarms
- battery-operated (can be hard-wired)
- low cost
- available at hardware and home stores
Basic smoke alarms are adequate as long as they can successfully alert everyone in your home. Depending on your needs, you may need to consider other types of alarms.
Can everyone in my family hear the smoke alarms?
Basic smoke alarms
Basic smoke alarms may be difficult to hear because of the high pitched noise that they emit. If anyone in your house has trouble hearing the alarms, consider these alternatives:
Pre-recorded Voice Alarms
Instead of a high pitched noise, a recorded voice message alerts you to the fire. Since speech is somewhat lower pitched and easier to hear, these can be a useful option.
KidSmart Vocal Smoke Alarms
These alarms allow you to record your own message that will be played when the alarm is activated. The message can state there is a fire, as well as remind you about your exit plan. The use of a familiar voice is very effective at waking children in the event of a fire, and is also useful for the hearing impaired.
Vibrate or/Shaker Smoke Alarms
These alarms use a vibrating device to shake a bed or chair to awaken and alert you of fire.
These alarms use an extra bright strobe light to alert you of fire. Some strobe alarms also include a vibrator device.
Hard-wired smoke alarms
If your smoke alarms are wired into your home’s electrical system, you will need to have a qualified electrician do the initial installation or install replacements. Hard-wired alarms may or may not have a battery back-up. Test your hard-wired smoke alarm just as you would a battery-operated alarm. The entire unit should be replaced every 8-10 years. Like battery-operated alarms, most hard-wired alarms use a high-pitched electronic horn which is difficult for some people to hear.
We recommend you choose an alarm that has a seal of approval from the testing agency, Underwriters Laboratory and has the UL mark on packaging.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Carbon monoxide (CO) is commonly known as "the silent killer." Because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, none of your senses can detect it. CO claims the lives of nearly 300 people in their homes each year according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. CO is a potentially deadly gas that is produced by fuel-burning heating equipment, such as furnaces, wood stoves, fireplaces, and kerosene heaters. Follow these guidelines to help keep your family safer:
- Install at least one CO alarm near sleeping areas.
- Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up your home's central heating system and repair leaks or other problems; fireplaces and woodstoves should also be inspected each year and cleaned or repaired as needed.
- Keep gas appliances properly adjusted and serviced.
- Never use an oven or range to heat your home.
- Never use a gas or charcoal grill inside your home or in a closed garage.
- Portable electric generators must be used outside only. Never use them indoors, in a garage or in any confined area that can allow CO to collect.
Help is a phone call away. Your local fire department is standing by and ready to assist you in testing or installing alarms, as well as helping you develop and practice an exit plan for your home. Call your local fire department today for assistance.