Fire Safety: Smoke Detectors
Smoke detectors sound an alarm when a fire starts, alerting people before they are trapped or overcome by smoke.
|With smoke detectors, your risk of dying in a home fire is cut nearly in half. Replace batteries once a year, or whenever a detector chirps to signal that its battery is low. Do not ever borrow detector batteries for other uses - a disabled smoke detector cannot save your life! For complete home protection, consider installing automatic fire sprinklers in addition to your smoke detectors. If your detector is more than ten years old, replace it.|
Most fatal home fires occur at night, while people are asleep. Poisonous gases and smoke from a fire can numb the senses in a very short time. Every home needs a device that can wake people up in time to escape from a fire. Almost every day, a smoke detector saves somebody's life. Of all the low-cost fire alarm devices you can buy, fire officials consider smoke detectors the most effective!
Be familiar with the sound of a smoke detector.
Choosing a Smoke Detector
|Dozens of reputable brands of smoke detectors are readily available. No matter where you buy your detectors or what type they are, be sure to buy only "labelled" units - those bearing the mark of an organization that tests and evaluates products. Any labelled smoke detector offers protection - whether it is powered by batteries or household current; whether it is a photo-electric or an ionization device. But to get the protection you paid for, it is vital that you follow the manufacturer's recommendations for installation, testing and maintenance.|
How Many Do You Need
According to the widely accepted Standard on Household Fire Warning Equipment (NFPA 74), minimum protection requires smoke detectors outside each bedroom and on each additional level of the house - including the basement.
For extra protection, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that you also install detectors inside each bedroom, the dining room, furnace room, utility room and hallways. If your family sleeps with the bedroom doors closed, it is especially important to install detectors inside the bedrooms. Also, some smoke detectors are not recommended for kitchens because of false alarms from cooking vapours, or garages, where automobile exhaust might cause alarms, or for attics or other unheated spaces where extremes of temperature or humidity might affect their operation.
How to Install
To install most smoke detectors all you need is a screwdriver and a drill. Most smoke detectors operate either on batteries or household current. A detector that plugs into a wall outlet must have a restraining device so that the plug cannot accidentally be pulled from the wall. Detectors can also be hard-wired into the electrical system. But never hard-wire a detector to a circuit that can be turned off at a wall switch.
Because smoke rises, each director should be mounted high on a wall or on the ceiling to detect traces of smoke. For a wall-mounted unit, the top of the detector should be 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 cm) from the ceiling. A ceiling mounted detector should be placed at least 4 inches (10 cm) from any wall. In a room with a high pitched ceiling, mount the detector on or near the ceiling's highest point.
Most home fires start in living areas - the den, family room or living room. On a floor with no bedrooms, install the required detector in or near the living area. In a stairway to an upper storey, install the detector in the path where smoke would travel up the stairs.
Don't install a detector near a window, door or air register where drafts could impair the detector's operation.
Locate a basement smoke detector close to the stairway leading to the floor above. But don't install the detector at the top of the basement stairs; dead air space near the door may prevent smoke from reaching the detector.
Smoke Detector Maintenance
Replace the batteries at least once a year or according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Warn everyone in your household to leave working batteries in smoke detectors - resist the temptation to borrow them for other purposes.
Never paint a smoke detector. Cobwebs and dust can impair a detector's sensitivity, clean your detectors at least once a year according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions for testing your smoke detectors. It only takes a moment to test a smoke detector that could save your life; test yours once a week to make sure you're protected.
E.D.I.T.H. can save your life!
Who is this E.D.I.T.H. that can save your life? This E.D.I.T.H. is
not a person, but a plan you make to escape from fire in your home.
E - escape, D - drills, I - in, T - the, H - home.
Fires in the home are the cause of many deaths. In fact, 70% of all fatalities by
fire occur in private residences. Most of these could have been prevented if the
families had a fire escape plan and if they would of practiced the plan!
In only three minutes your home could be totally involved in fire. Time is not
on your side. If a fire occurs in your home, every second counts. Members of your
family should react quickly and calmly. It only takes three minutes to loose
everything you have, including your children.
Design a plan
If you don't already have a plan for your family's emergency fire escape,
sit down with your family today and make one. Diagrams showing emergency
escape routes are a helpful visual aid for all family members. I have included
an example diagram, draw one for your home:
Note: At least two ways out of each room & a family meeting place
link to a piece of graph paper to print out
Plan for at least two escape routes, in the event fire blocks one of them.
Make sure children can work all the windows, doors and locks they may have
to use with an alternate escape route. If the alternate escape route is from
the second floor, be sure there is a safe way to the ground. If it's smoky,
get down, stay low and crawl fast. And, make sure everyone in your family
understands that they must not go back into your home, Not for anything.
Choose a meeting place
Very important, choose a meeting place outdoors where your family is to
meet for a head count. This way you can make sure everyone has exited
from the home safely. Never go back into your home!
Drill your escape plan
After checking the plan on paper, actually drill the entire plan. Have everyone
start in their bedroom, with the doors closed. One person should shout, ring a
bell, or push the smoke detector's test button to start the drill. Everyone should
then crawl under the "smoke" and meet out side at the meeting place.
Test smoke detectors
For your plan to work, your home must also be equipped with operating
smoke detectors. Testing your smoke detector(s) every month is an excellent
opportunity to use E.D.I.T.H.
Check the door
If your awakened by your smoke detectors, and you suspect a fire, do not
open the door until you've tested it. To test your door, use the back of your
hand. If the door is warm, use your alternate escape route.
If the door is cool, stay low, brace your shoulder against the door and open
it a crack. If smoke and heat come in, slam the door shut and use your
alternate escape route. Try to keep closed doors between you and the smoke.
Never try to hide from fire
Tell little kids to never hide if there's a fire... not in a closet or under a bed.
Tell them to wait by a window and signal with a bed sheet or flashlight.
Sit down with your family and make your E.D.I.T.H. plans now, then practice,
it may save your life (or the life of someone you love)!
|Carbon Monoxide Safety
What Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is generated through incomplete combustion of fuel such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, and charcoal, gasoline or wood.
This incomplete combustion can occur in a variety of home appliances. The major cause of high levels of carbon monoxide in the home is faulty ventilation of furnaces, hot water heaters, fireplaces, cooking stoves, grills and kerosene heaters. Other common sources are car exhausts, and gas or diesel powered portable machines.
Faulty or improper ventilation of natural gas and fuel oil furnaces during the cold winter months accounts for most carbon monoxide poisoning cases. Correct operation of any fuel burning equipment requires two key conditions. There must be:
* An adequate supply of air for complete combustion.
* Proper ventilation of fuel burning appliances through the chimney, vents or duct to the outside.
How Carbon Monoxide Affects The Body
Hundreds of people die each year, and thousands more require medical treatment, because of carbon monoxide poisoning in their home. The human body depends on oxygen for the burning of fuel (food) to provide the energy that allows cells to live and function. Oxygen makes up approximately 21% of the atmosphere, and enters the lungs during breathing. In the lungs it combines with a blood component called hemoglobin. When saturated with oxygen, it is called oxyhemoglobin.
After being carried by the bloodstream to the cells of the body, oxyhemoglobin releases oxygen to the body tissues. Carbon monoxide is dangerous because it bonds much more tightly to the hemoglobin than does oxygen. Once hemoglobin combines with carbon monoxide to form carboxyhemoglobin, its ability to combine with oxygen is completely lost.
As more carboxyhemoglobin is formed, the amount of oxygen carried to the cells and organs in the body decreases. Carbon monoxide starves the blood of oxygen, literally causing the body to suffocate from the inside out. When the carboxyhemoglobin concentration reaches a certain level, people get nauseous, become unconscious, and ultimately die. How quickly symptoms appear depends upon the concentration, or parts per million (ppm) of carbon monoxide in the air and the duration of exposure. A person's size, age and general health are also factors in how quickly effects of the gas will become evident.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning is often confused with the flu. Children with carbon monoxide poisoning have mistakenly been treated for indigestion. It is important that you discuss with all family members the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Different carbon monoxide concentrations and exposure times cause different symptoms.
EXTREME EXPOSURE: Unconsciousness, convulsions, cardio respiratory failure, and death
MEDIUM EXPOSURE: Severe throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, vomiting, and fast heart rate
MILD EXPOSURE: Slight headache, nausea, fatigue (often described as 'flu-like' symptoms)
For most people, mild symptoms generally will be felt after several hours of exposure of 100 ppm's of carbon monoxide.
Many reported cases of carbon monoxide poisoning indicate that while victims are aware they are not well, they become so disoriented that they are unable to save themselves by either exiting the building or calling for assistance. Infants and children are especially vulnerable to carbon monoxide due to their high metabolic rates. Because children use more oxygen faster than adults do, deadly carbon monoxide gas accumulates in their bodies faster and can interfere with oxygen supply to vital organs such as the brain and the heart. If left unchecked, a child's exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to neurological disorders, memory loss, personality changes and mild to severe forms of brain damage.
Different Types Of Carbon Monoxide Detectors
As with smoke detectors, consumers should avoid any brand that does not bear the mark of Underwriters Laboratories Inc. and/or Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada. You should consider ease of installation, the location of installation and the power source of an alarm when choosing a plug-in, battery powered or hardwire model. Battery Backup-some plug-in carbon monoxide alarm models have a back-up power source that allows the unit to function in the event of a main line power failure. During a power outage, people are likely to use alternate sources of power, light and heat (e.g. kerosene heaters, gas-powered portable generators and fireplaces) which may be out of tune and may produce deadly carbon monoxide gas.
There are three main types of technology utilized in carbon monoxide detectors today: Chem-optical, Electrochemical, and Semiconductor.
Chem-optical technology alarms are also known as gel cell or biomimetic technology alarms. These alarms utilize a type of sensor that mimics the response of hemoglobin, in the blood, to carbon monoxide. Alarms using this kind of sensor are usually battery powered. One main drawback that remains is that the sensor can non-reversibly accumulate carbon monoxide and other contaminants over time, which can eventually lead to false and/or nuisance alarms. Some chem-optical (gel cell) alarms on the market today contain an expensive replacement battery and/or sensor, which must be replaced periodically.
Electrochemical technology alarms are usually battery powered and are much more complex than semiconductor. Platinum, as a catalyst, and acid, as an electrolyte, break down carbon monoxide gas and release electrons, which induce a small current and activate the alarm. This type of sensor is very accurate in its initial calibrated state, but is susceptible to contamination and swaying from its original set point over time and exposure. The technology is very expensive to manufacture and will typically have a limited lifetime of about 2-5 years. Some manufacturers' models will require its battery and/or sensor to be changed periodically. Other manufacturers' models have sealed housing that requires the entire unit to be discarded once the battery power supply is depleted.
Semiconductor sensors are mechanically simple and are electronic in nature; therefore they have a long life (typically 10 years) and are very reliable. Current designs demonstrate excellent immunity to other gases that may be present. Semiconductor sensors utilize a controlled quantity of tin dioxide as a sensing element. The sensing material is heated by a small electric heating element and carbon monoxide gas is catalytically broken down at the surface of the sensing element. Electrons are released in this process and are absorbed by the sensing element. This increase in charged particles lowers the resistance of the sensor. In an alarm using semiconductor sensors, electronics are used to measure the sensor resistance and from this to calculate the carbon monoxide concentration.
What To Do In The Event Of An Alarm
You should consult their owner's manual for a carbon monoxide alarm procedure. However, the following is a general procedure:
If a carbon monoxide alarm sounds a low level warning or hazard level alarm, you should leave your home immediately and call their local emergency service or 911 for help. The Fire Service has the proper protective equipment and gas meters to properly verify the alarm. A head count should be taken to check that all persons are accounted for once outside in the fresh air. You should not re-enter the home until it has been checked by the Fire Service and aired out. Once the source of the problem has been identified the appliance in question should be turned off and not used until the problem has been corrected by a qualified technician or utility company.
Where To Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Since oxygen and carbon monoxide are approximately the same density, they mix equally well in air. Therefore most alarms measuring carbon monoxide can be placed anywhere in a room. Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen anywhere and at any time in your home. However, most carbon monoxide poisoning cases occur while people are sleeping. For that reason it is recommended that you install at least one carbon monoxide alarm with an audible alarm near the sleeping areas. Install additional alarms on every level, especially where you have appliances capable of producing carbon monoxide, to provide maximum protection.
REMEMBER - CARBON MONOXIDE IS DEADLY
EARLY WARNING COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE
|Fire Escape Planning
Fire Escape Planning
A fire escape plan is essential if you are to survive a fire in your home. The plan, when practiced, will help you to react rationally when confronted by a fire emergency. This is very important if the fire occurs during the night.
Certain factors must be considered when developing your own fire escape plan. Firstly, what type of dwelling do you live in? Is it a house or a an apartment? Think about the location of bedrooms and their proximity to exits. Are the bedrooms on the first floor and easy to exit from? Or are they on the second floor with two ways out? Or are they on the third floor or higher with no convenient second exit? How about the physical abilities of the residents in relation to where they sleep? Are they active and mobile or physically challenged or unable to walk?
Regardless of how familiar you are with your home, draw a floor plan. Include all doors and windows that could be used as a second means of escape. Include outside features, such as adjoining roof areas, balconies or porch roofs, which could be used in case of fire. Again, recognize the limitations of the people within each room.
Know two ways out of each room in case your main exit becomes blocked with smoke. Ensure that secondary escape routes are accessible and that the occupants are physically capable of using it. If windows are to be used for escape, you must make sure that they will open easily.
Establish a meeting place away from the building so that all members of the family can be accounted for. Arrange with a neighbor to use their telephone to call the fire department. In this way every person in your home will know what to do if and when fire strikes.
Each of us must prepare ourselves in case a fire occurs in our home. Emergency phone numbers for the police department, and Fire-Rescue should be kept handy to the phone for quick reference in an emergency. It is advisable for older adults to have telephones in their sleeping areas. Eyeglasses and other appliances, such as hearing aids, should be kept on the night table when you go to bed. All necessary medication should be close at hand as well. If you use a wheelchair, walker or cane to move about, then these items should be kept close at hand.
At home and work
Develop and Practice A Fire Escape Plan
Draw a floor plan of your home showing all possible exits from each room.
Where possible, plan two exits - a main route and an alternate exit route from each room.
Make certain that everyone understands that if they hear the smoke alarm, or someone shouting "FIRE", they should immediately evacuate the home.
Designate a meeting place outside your home in the event of fire.
If you live in an apartment building, develop your escape plan taking into account fire escape procedures provided by the building management.
Make sure your baby-sitter understands your fire escape plan
Page Last Updated: Oct 02, 2008 (15:36:16)