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Protecting Your Home From Smoke, Gas, And Fire

Smoke Alarms: What Kind and How Many?

There are two kinds of smoke alarms that you can buy: photoelectric alarms and ionization alarms. Each responds in a different way to different kinds of fires. Ionization alarms respond more quickly to fires that are flaming and fast-moving, and photoelectric alarms are set off more quickly by smoldering, smoking fires. There are also alarms called dual sensor alarms that combine photoelectric and ionization alarms in a single smoke detector.

The purpose of a smoke alarm is to give your family as early a warning as possible. And because there’s no way to predict what kind of fire may break out in your home, the National Fire Protection Association recommends you install both kinds of alarms or use dual sensor alarms.

To be properly protected, you need to install smoke alarms on each level of your home, including the basement. There should also be an alarm outside each sleeping area and inside each bedroom.

Interconnecting alarms so that when one is set off anywhere in the house they all sound provides the most protection. You can do that either by installing hard-wired alarms -- alarms connected to your homes electrical system -- or using wireless technology to interconnect battery-operated alarms.

Some alarms are designed to alert people who are hard of hearing. They may use a strobe light, for instance when they are set off.

Smoke Alarms: Tips for Maintenance

Always make sure smoke alarms are installed according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you're using hard-wired alarms, an electrician should do the installation. If you have questions about installing your alarms, get answers by calling the non-emergency number of your local fire department.

Once your smoke alarms are installed, test them once a month to be sure they're working. Alarms powered by long-lasting batteries are designed to be replaced after several years based on the manufacturer's schedule. Standard batteries, including batteries used as backup for hard-wired alarms, should be tested once a month and replaced once a year or when they begin to chirp. To make it easier to remember to replace them, choose a holiday or a day like your birthday to do it.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas that is given off in fires and when fuels such as gasoline, wood, charcoal, and natural gas burn incompletely. If CO becomes concentrated in a space, it can be deadly. In your home, heating and cooking equipment are potential sources of CO; so are cars or a generator running in the garage.

Because it is odorless and invisible, people can be overcome by CO before they even know it’s there. Symptoms vary depending on a person’s health and activity level and on the level of CO concentration. Infants, pregnant women, and people with conditions such as emphysema can be more severely affected by lower concentrations than others.

WebMD Medical Reference

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