Monday, 18 December 2017

Did You Buy The Right Smoke Alarm?

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 11 May 1999 00:00

Did you buy Underwriters Laboratories of Canada-approved smoke alarms to ensure your family's safety? Do you have both types of smoke detectors ready to protect you and your home?

"Investigations into home fire deaths very often find that a smoke alarm did not sound," explains Canada Safety Council (CSC) president Emile Therien. "It may have been disconnected or not in working order. The batteries may have been dead, or someone may have taken them out."

Or maybe it was the wrong type of smoke alarm.

Different types of smoke alarms detect different sorts of fires. For maximum protection, you should have at least one of each type of alarm - ionization and photoelectric - on every level of your home.

Ionization-type smoke alarms are the first to respond to fast flaming fires that consume combustible materials quickly and spread rapidly. These fires generate a lot of heat, but little smoke. Cooking fat or grease, the most common causes of home fires, create fast flaming fires as do flammable liquids, newspapers, paint, and cleaning solutions. Since ionization-type smoke alarms typically respond to fast flaming fires, they are best suited for rooms and areas which contain highly combustible materials like kitchens, workrooms, home offices, basement storage areas, and garages.

Slow smoldering fires trigger photoelectric smoke alarms. These are the alarms that can be such a nuisance in kitchens and hallways where the smoke from burning toast or frying food sets them off. This frustration factor often causes the alarms to be dismantled to keep the peace, a serious lapse in judgement.

Smouldering fires produce a lot of smoke but little flame or heat. They may smoulder for hours in large pieces of furniture such as a couch, mattress, or counter top before bursting into flame. Photoelectric alarms should be placed in or near living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens.

Smoke alarms have been credited with bringing the number of people that die in Canadian home fires down to about 400 each year. But that is still too many preventable deaths. A fully-charged a smoke alarm can scream the warning of fire that provides precious seconds for an escape to safety.

Fire safety isn't accidental. Following these tips will ensure a safe home:

  • When you buy a smoke alarm, look for the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC) label which assures you the product meets Canadian standards.
  • Install one ionization and one photoelectric smoke alarm on every level of your home or residence, especially near sleeping areas and kitchens.
  • Replace the batteries every year or when they beep intermittently. DO NOT USE RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES since they lose their charge without emitting any warning signal.
  • Test the alarms monthly by pushing the test button. Once a year, hold a smouldering cotton string, cigarette, or incense stick until the smoke alarm sounds. If the alarm is not reliable, get rid of it. Replace each alarm every five years, nothing lasts forever. Make sure discarded units cannot be reused.
  • Every six months, clean the inside of battery-powered units with the soft brush attachment on your vacuum. If there's a smoker in the house, clean more frequently. (Maybe that should be the smoker's job.)
  • Make sure everyone recognizes the sound of the alarm and knows what to do in case of fire.

For more fire safety information: Canada Safety Council, Ottawa, Phone 613-739-1535 (after hours 613-737-4965) or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The website is http://www.safety-council.org Or contact your local firestation.

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