Most people think a house fire is never going to happen to them and if they have a fire they will have plenty of time to escape. Those are the 2 most common misconceptions about house fires. Most of the items in our homes today are made from synthetics such as polyester or nylon. Almost everything inside our homes is synthetic or plastic based and has a fast flame spread. Synthetics also release very hazardous fumes as they smolder and burn.
My friend David Wolter from D & K Home Safety took us to dinner one night and shared some shocking statistics with us. Did you know the average response time for fire fighters is 5 minutes but fires burn so quickly you have only seconds to get out of your home before fatal smoke inhalation. Many people have smoke alarms that do not work and cannot alert them to fire or smoke. Additionally if your fire alarm is chirping or your fire alarm is beeping you need to change the battery because it will not go off if you have a fire.
The most fatal fires occur between the hours of 11 PM through 6 AM when people are sleeping and cannot detect the smell of smoke or harmful fumes in the air. Children less than 5 years are most likely to die in a fire because they sleep so soundly and if awakened usually hide under the bed or in a closet. There are many things that you can do to prevent house fires and be alerted to fire or smoke as soon as it starts.
There are two types of fires to be aware of
- Free burning fires that have quick flame spread
- Smoldering fires that are hard to detect and release toxic fumes
Types of Smoke Detectors and Smoke Alarms review
The most common type of smoke alarm is an ionization smoke detector which operates by sensing smoke particles. Ion smoke detectors work best when there are flames but are not too effective for smoldering fires. If the ions particles are disrupted near the smoke detector it sounds an audible alarm. Ion alarms detect small patterns of disruption when you burn toast or cook bacon it releases small particles and your ion alarm will go off. When synthetics burn such as a sofa, curtains or plastics they release larger particles and will not make an ion alarm go off. Ion smoke alarms are not effective on smoky smoldering fires and sometimes go off after the whole house is filled with deadly carbon monoxide smoke.
Photoelectric smoke detectors go off much sooner than ion smoke detectors and detect slow smoldering fires. Photoelectric smoke detectors are not as sensitive to cooking food so they are a good choice for the kitchen.
It’s really important to read the manual on a smoke detector and see what the percentage of failure rate is on the smoke detector you buy from the local hardware store. Don’t be fooled when you push the test button you are only testing that the battery and horn work, you are not testing the effectiveness of the smoke alarm.
The U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission website has 9639 results for a search on “smoke detector recalls” and 10,423 results on “fire alarm recall”. Keep your family safe by installing smoke and heat detectors in your home, but do your research first on which types of smoke alarms will actually work.
Safety tips to prevent fires in your home
- Check plugs to make sure they are fully plugged into socket
- Unplug all appliances when not in use
- Check plugs for brown streaks, burned marks and unusually hot surfaces
- Always remove plugs by grasping plugs not by pulling cords
- Do not leave candles unattended or burning near over hanging curtains
- Frequently check clothes dryer for lint buildup in hoses and ducts
- Unplug Christmas lights before going to bed
- Don’t walk away from the stove while cooking
- Keep lighters and matches away from children
- Make sure the BBQ grill is far enough away from the side of the house or overhangs
- Vacuum alarms and smoke detectors once a year to prevent them from getting dusty
- Change dead or missing smoke alarm batteries
- Keep an ABC multi-purpose fire extinguisher in the kitchen and the bedroom
David also came out to my house and did a fire safety inspection for free and what he taught us may save our lives one day. I was amazed that our carbon monoxide detector had brown streaks and was really hot. This was a device that was suppose to protect us but this one could have caused a fire.