Numerous research studies show that working smoke detectors lead to reduced fatalities from residential structure fires. By alerting occupants to the presence of a fire and facilitating early response, smoke detectors have been demonstrated to save lives, reduce fire related injury, reduce the spread of fires, and reduce the damage caused by fire. EMBC research indicates that your chances of dying in a home fire can be reduced by as much as 74% if a working smoke detector is present in your home.
Smoke detectors come in two basic forms – photoelectric and ionization. Both types pass the test required by Underwriter’s Laboratories for residential smoke detectors. Ionization smoke detectors detect flames by sensing electrical charge imbalances caused by smoke through an electrical current and are quicker at sensing fast developing flaming fires. Photoelectric smoke detectors detect smoke by using a light source to measure the smoke density and are quicker at sensing smoldering fire. When looking for new smoke detectors, look for dual mode detectors that use both technologies and detect both flames and smoke.
Smoke detectors are ideally mounted on ceilings because smoke rises and collects there. Avoid ceilings near heating appliances, windows, air supply registers, and ceiling fans. At least one smoke detector should be installed on every floor in your home and ideally to each sleeping area.
Some smoke detectors are powered by a 9-volt battery, some by the home's electrical system, and some a combination of both (wired into the home's electrical system and equipped with a 9-volt battery back up.) If you elect to purchase smoke detectors connected to your home's electrical system, have a qualified electrician install them. If you purchase battery-powered ones, you can install them with a screwdriver and a drill but install according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Smoke detectors save lives but only if they’re working.
If you have hard-wired smoke detectors you need to replace the entire alarm every 10 years or when they begin to chirp. If your smoke detectors are battery powered it is a good idea to replace the battery once a year whether or not the battery still works. A good way to remember when to change your battery is this: "change your clocks - change your batteries" and when you do, use a soft brush to clean off dust particles that could compromise your alarm’s detecting ability.
The 2012 BC Building Code requires all smoke alarms to be hardwired and interconnected on each floor and in each bedroom. Battery smoke alarms are not permitted in new construction, or in a major renovation, but are an alternative in older homes, using blue tooth technology to connect the alarms. Smoke Alarms, even hardwired ones in older homes, are reasonably inexpensive to install, but at the very least, battery powered alarms should be in every home, on each floor and in each bedroom. The may save your life!