Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Is Your Smoke Detector Making Your Family Vulnerable?

Fire. In the home, it is a danger more probable and destructive than any criminal burglarizing your residence. And, often, far more lethal.

According to the latest statistics by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), in 2011, there were 1,389,500 fires in the U.S. causing 3,005 civilian deaths, 17,500 civilian injuries, and $11.7 billion in property damage.

To break it down even further, the 2011 NFPA Fire Loss Clock calculates:

A fire department responded to a fire every 23 seconds.
One home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds.
One civilian fire injury was reported every 30 minutes.
One civilian fire death occurred every 2 hours and 55 minutes.

We all know that smoke detectors save lives – and they do -  but what if your smoke alarm isn't working? Do you know the last time you checked yours or changed its batteries?

The NFPA says that "almost all U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm" but "62% of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes without working smoke alarms".

Even more frightening, what if the old adage - that "smoke detectors save lives" - isn't quite as true as we've always been told?

Time to Upgrade That Smoke Detector

There are 2 types of smoke detectors, each utilizing a different technology (ionization and photoelectric detection), on the market right now. Manufacturers insist that both are safe and work equally well when it comes to saving lives.

However, NBC's Jeff Rossen recently investigated the findings of Texas A&M's Dr. Don Russell, an electrical engineering professor, and his research group, which found that the ionization smoke detectors, the most common smoke alarm used in 9 out of 10 homes, do not sense smoke as quickly or effectively as the photoelectric detectors.

On the Friday, March 22, 2013 episode of the Today show, Rossen presented Dr. Russell's research and provided evidence to back up his claims.

You can watch the video here, but the takeaway was this: the common ionization smoke detectors took 30 minutes to sound after smoke had begun filling the room and only after the fire had already started. The photoelectric smoke detector went off much sooner – at 17 minutes – when less smoke had filled the test room and the fire had yet to even ignite.

All evidence suggests it is safer to get a photoelectric smoke detector, or – as experts suggest – a dual detector, which includes both technologies, though these are more expensive and more difficult to find.

Your Children May Still Not Be Safe

So that covers it, right? Your family will be better protected by upgrading your smoke detector(s)? Well…maybe not.

A more detailed reporting of the issues with smoke alarms – continued on Sunday night's Dateline – found that, in addition to the average home smoke alarm not performing as effectively as once perceived, children, more often than not, do not hear smoke alarms when they are sleeping. Watch this video clip from Dateline's Sunday, March 24th segment:

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According to sleep researcher, Dr. Gary Smith, who was interviewed immediately after this clip:
Children spend more time in deep sleep than adults do and that's why it's harder for them to awaken in the case of an emergency.
It's frightening enough to know that your smoke alarm likely won't sound in enough time for you to safely get out of a burning house, but to know that – in addition – even if and when the alarm does sound, your children most likely will sleep right through it is terrifying.

Don't rely on just your smoke detectors. Have an escape plan that everyone is aware of and abide by - as Dr. Smith advises - the three P's:  Preparation – Planning – Practice. Your escape and fire drills should include time to get to and rouse sleeping children to safely evacuate them.

For more on creating an escape plan and practicing fire drills at home with your children, watch's Plan a Home Fire Drill.

A Monitored Smoke Alarm Is the Answer

If even getting a photoelectric or dual smoke alarm possibly won't wake your children in enough time to get out of a burning house, what other alternatives are there to ensure the safety of your family if your house were to catch fire?

Having a smoke detector tied into your monitored alarm security system is probably the safest thing you can do for your home and your loved ones. To combat the danger of a house fire, heat detectors and carbon monoxide detectors can also be wired into your home security system. Here are just a few reasons that monitored smoke, heat and CO alarms are safer alternatives to a standard smoke detector:
  • A standard home security system siren can be up to 100x as loud as a standard battery-operated smoke detector.
  • Unlike stand-alone, battery-operated smoke detectors, a monitored alarm system's smoke detectors are wired together so that if smoke or fire is detected in one part of the house, the alarm will sound throughout the house. 
  • The alarm company's monitoring station will phone you in the event an alarm sounds – another way to let you know something is amiss if you do not hear the smoke alarm and even if you're not at home.
  • The fire department will be dispatched for you, whether or not you are home. If you are in the house at the time of the fire, you can focus all of your precious time and energy on getting your family and pets safely out of harm's way.
  • With a monitored smoke alarm, you don't have to remember to check your device periodically and put fresh batteries in it yearly. If there is a problem with any part of your alarm system, you will be called and notified of the problem so it can be fixed before an emergency occurs.
Often, if a smoke alarm does not sound, for whatever reason, or the occupants do not hear it, emergency calls are not made until neighbors or passers-by see the smoke and flames billowing from your house. At that point, it is almost always too late to save those still inside.

Having a smoke/heat detector as part of your monitored home security system is the safest and most reliable fire protection you can have in your home. Though this will cost more than just grabbing a smoke detector off the shelf at your local store, such comprehensive protection is priceless; after all, you can't put a price on protecting those you love the most.

Alarm Center offers both smoke and heat detectors, as well as carbon monoxide detectors, for our customers to add onto their home security systems or purchase along with a monitored alarm system for their home or business. Contact us today to learn more about giving your loved ones their best protection against one of the most dangerous of home invaders – fire.

[Call Alarm Center Security today for a FREE quote on a security system for your home or business - 1-800-97-ALARM - or visit our website to see if you qualify for a $0 down installation -]