About Smoke Alarms...
SMOKE ALARMS SAVE LIVES
The majority of fatal home fires happen at night, when people are asleep. Contrary to popular belief, the smell of smoke may not wake a sleeping person. The poisonous gases and smoke produced by a fire can numb the senses and put you into a deeper sleep.
Inexpensive household smoke alarms sound an alarm, alerting you to a fire. By giving you time to escape, smoke alarms cut your risk of dying in a home fire, nearly in half. Smoke alarms save so many lives that most states have laws requiring them in private homes.
CHOOSING A SMOKE ALARM
Be sure that the smoke alarm you buy carry the label of an independent testing laboratory.
Several types of alarms are available. Some run on batteries, others on household current. Some detect smoke using an "ionization" sensor, other use a "photoelectric" detection system. All approved smoke alarms, regardless of the type, will offer adequate protection provided they are installed and maintained properly.
IS ONE ENOUGH?
Every home should have a smoke alarm outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. The National Fire Alarm Code, developed by NFPA, requires a smoke alarm in each sleeping room for new construction. On floors without bedrooms, alarms should be installed in or near living areas, such as dens, living rooms, or family rooms.
Be sure everyone sleeping in your home can hear your smoke alarms. If any residents are hearing-impaired or sleep with bedroom doors closed, install additional alarms inside sleeping areas as well. There are special smoke alarms for the hearing impaired; these flash a light in addition to sounding an audible alarm.
For extra protection, NFPA suggests installing alarms in dining rooms, furnace rooms, utility rooms, and hallways. Smoke alarms are not recommended for kitchens, bathrooms, or garages where cooking fumes, steam, or exhaust fumes could set off false alarms - or for attics and other unheated spaces where humidity and temperature changes might affect a alarm's operation.
WHERE TO INSTALL?
Because smoke rises, mount smoke alarms high on a wall or on the ceiling. Wall-mounted units should be mounted so that the top the the alarm is 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30cm) from the ceiling. A ceiling-mounted alarm should be attached at least 4 inches (10cm) from the near east wall. In a room with a pitched ceiling, mount the alarm at or near the ceiling's highest point.
In stairways with no doors at the top or bottom, position smoke alarms anywhere in the path of smoke moving up the stairs. But always position smoke alarms at the bottom of closed stairways, such as those leading to the basement, because dead air trapped near the door at the top of a stairway could prevent smoke from reaching a alarm located at the top.
Don't install a smoke alarm too near a window, door, or forced-air register where drafts could interfere with the alarm's operation.
Most battery-powered smoke alarms and alarms that plug into wall outlets can be installed using only a drill and a screwdriver, by following the manufacturer's instructions. Plug-in alarms must have restraining devices so they cannot be unplugged by accident. Alarms can also be hard-wired into a building's electrical system. Hard-wired alarms should be installed by a qualified electrician. Never connect a smoke alarm to a circuit that can be turned off by a wall switch.
Cooking vapors and steam sometimes set off a smoke alarm. To correct this, try moving the alarm away from the kitchen or bathroom, or install an exhaust fan. Cleaning your alarm regularly, according to the manufacturer's instructions, may also help.
If "nuisance alarms" persist, do not disable the alarm. Replace the alarm.
Only a functioning smoke alarm can protect you. Never disable a smoke alarm by "borrowing" its battery for another use.
Following the manufacturer's instructions, test all your smoke alarms monthly and install new batteries at least once a year. A good reminder is when you change your clocks in the spring or fall: change your clock, change your battery.
Clean your smoke alarms using a vacuum cleaners without removing the alarm's cover.
Never paint a smoke alarm.
Smoke alarms don't last forever. Replace any smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old.
- Make sure everyone is familiar with the sound of the alarm.
- Plan escape routes. Know at least two ways out of each room.
- Agree on a meeting place outside your home where all residents will gather after they escape. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
- Remove obstructions from doors and windows needed for escape.
- Make sure everyone in the household can unlock doors and windows quickly, even in the dark. Windows or doors with security bars should be equipped with quick-release devices, and everyone in the household should know how to use them.
- When an alarm sounds, leave immediately. Go directly to your outside meeting place and call the fire department.
- Once you're out, stay out. Never return to a burning building.
Copyright 1995, National Fire Protection Association, Batterymarch Park,
Quincy, MA 02269-910
About Carbon Monoxide Detectors...
WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE AND WHO IS AT RISK?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, deadly gas. Because you can't see, taste, or smell it, carbon monoxide can kill you before you know it's there.
Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Medical experts believe, however, that individuals with greater oxygen requirements such as unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens, and people with coronary or respiratory problems are at greater risk.
WHY IS CARBON MONOXIDE SO DANGEROUS?
The great danger of carbon monoxide is its attraction to hemoglobin in the bloodstream. When breathed in, carbon monoxide bonds with hemoglobin in the blood, displacing the oxygen which cells need to function. When CO is present in the air, it rapidly accumulates in the blood, forming a toxic compound known as carboxyhemoglobin (COHb).
Carboxyhemoglobin causes symptoms similar to the flu, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion, and irritability. As levels of COHb increase, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and eventually brain damage or death can result.
SOURCE: Journal of American Medical Association
WHERE DOES CARBON MONOXIDE COME FROM?
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of incomplete combustion, present whenever fuel is burned. It is produced by common home appliances, such as gas or oil furnaces, clothes dryers, ranges, ovens, water heaters or unvented space heaters, fireplaces, charcoal grills, and wood burning stoves. Fumes from automobiles also contain carbon monoxide, and can enter a home through walls or doorways if a car is left running in an attached garage.
All of these sources can contribute to a CO problem in the home. If a home is vented properly and is free from appliance malfunctions, air pressure fluctuations or airway venting, or chimney blockages, carbon monoxide will most likely be safely vented to the outside. But energy-efficient insulation meant to keep warm air in during winter months and cool air in during summer months could cause carbon monoxide to be trapped inside.
Furnace heat exchangers can crack, vents and chimneys can become blocked, disconnected, or corroded; inadequate air supply of combustion appliances can cause conditions known as down drafting or reverse stacking, which force CO contaminated air back into the home.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF AND MY FAMILY FROM CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends installing at least one carbon monoxide detector with an audible alarm near the sleeping area. A detector on every level and in every bedroom provides extra protection. Remember, a carbon monoxide detector is a purchase that could help save your life.
Select an Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) listed detector. For an extra margin of safety, choose a self powered, extra sensitive unit that responds to lower levels of carbon monoxide and protects even during a power outage. The manufacturers of First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detectors make such a model, as well as a plug-in detector and a hardwired AC model with battery back-up.
In addition to installing carbon monoxide detectors, have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting, and chimney systems at least once a year, or as recommended by the manufacturer.
CHECKLIST: Where to Look for Problem Sources of Carbon Monoxide in the Home.
- An improperly installed or malfunctioning force air furnace could be the source of CO and should be carefully inspected by a professional who will:
- Measure the concentration of CO in the flue gases
- Check furnace connections to flue pipes, chimneys, and venting systems to outside of the home for signs of corrosion, blockages, rust, gaps, or holes
- Check furnace filters and filtering systems for dirt or blockages
- Check forced air fans for proper installations and correct air flow of flue gases. Improper furnace blower installation can result in carbon monoxide build-up because toxic gas is blown into, rather than out of the house
- Check the combustion chamber and internal heat exchanger for cracks, metal fatigue or corrosion - be sure they are clean and free of debris
- Check burners and ignition system. A flame that is mostly yellow in color in natural gas-fired furnaces is often a sign fuel is not burning completely, and higher levels of carbon monoxide are being released. Remember, you can't smell carbon monoxide
- Check all venting systems to the outside, including flues and chimneys for cracks, corrosion, holes debris, or blockages. Animals and birds can build nests in chimneys, preventing gases from escaping.
- Check all other appliances that use flammable fuels such as natural gas, oil, wood, propane, coal, or kerosene.
- Appliances include: gas water heaters, clothes dryers, kitchen ranges, ovens or cooktops, wood or coal burning stoves, gas refrigerators, or pressure washing machines, or generators
- Pilot lights can be a source of carbon monoxide because the by-products of combustion are released inside the home rather than vented to the outside. Gas ovens and ranges should be monitored closely and kept in good working order. Stove tops or ovens that operate on flammable fuels should never be used to heat a residence
- Be sure space heaters are vented properly. Unvented space heaters that use flammable fuel can release carbon monoxide into the home.
- Never operate barbecue grills and hibachis indoors or in an enclosed space such as a garage, even with the door open.
- Check the clothes dryer vent opening outside the house to be sure it's free of any blockage such as lint or debris.
- Be sure that testing equipment used to measure the presence of carbon monoxide in the air is calibrated to sense low levels of CO concentration.
- Testing equipment should be capable of sensing levels as low as one part per million. For example, Underwriters Laboratories' standard for residential carbon monoxide detectors requires detectors to alarm before 90 minutes of exposure to 100 parts per million of carbon monoxide
- If initial readings don't reveal sufficient concentrations of carbon monoxide to set off the alarm, digital measurement testing equipment that produces a printed 24-hour record can be used to help identify the source
OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW
If doors or windows are left open, or appliances are turned off, and outside air enters the home, carbon monoxide can dissipate. This creates a lower reading than the level that triggered the alarm.
- To help assure proper measurement, carbon monoxide readings should be conducted as soon as possible after an alarm incident
If appliances, flues and chimneys are confirmed to be in good working order, the source of carbon monoxide leaks may be from a car left running in an attached garage or from downdrafting.
- "Downdrafting" exists primarily in newer, more energy-efficient, "airtight" homes. Flue gases normally vent to the outside through flues and chimneys. When many exhaust fans are on, air pressure inside an airtight home may become lower than outside, causing flue gases that normally exit the house to turn around and flow back into the home. Inadequate air supply in a room where two or more combustion-driven appliances share the same air source, such as: a water heater and furnace in an unvented utility closet, can create a more complicated form of downdrafting called reverse stacking.
- This occurs when one appliance, such as the furnace, turns on and is unable to get adequate fresh air. When the furnace operates, it then draws CO contaminated air from the water heater exhaust and spreads polluted air throughout the house
A sticking thermostat can keep the furnace running continually, depleting the oxygen supply inside the house.
In multiple family dwellings where living spaces share walls and pipes, carbon monoxide from one unit may enter a neighboring space through floor boards, cracks or underneath doors.
Car exhaust, which contains carbon monoxide, can enter the home when a car is left idling in an attached garage...even if the garage door is left open.
Copyright 1995; BRK Brands Inc., 3901 Liberty Street Road, Aurora, IL 60504-8122