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Fire Prevention Week: Maintaining Your Detectors

Ryan Juntti
Updated: October 11, 2018 08:42 PM

As Fire Prevention Week continues, WDIO along with Lake Superior College, Per Mar Security Services, and Heritage Window and Door is spreading the word to help keep your family and property safe. Eyewitness News spoke with firefighters and smoke detector experts about the importance of having and maintaining your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

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We've all heard how important it is to have and maintain operating smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in our homes, and businesses, but exactly how important is it?

"Everyone should have a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector in their home," said Superior Fire Battalion Chief Howard Huber.

That's because every year an average of 3,000 Americans die in home fires. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says 60 percent of those deaths are in homes without a smoke detector or without a working smoke detector.

In Minnesota last year, 68 people died in fires with 51 of them in homes or apartments without a working detector, according to the Minnesota State Fire Marshal's 2017 Fire Report.

"It's sad because it's so preventable. It's just a thing where people typically do out of sight, out of mind, and they don't think of that," said Per Mar Security Sales Consultant Chad Currier.

Every year almost 400 people die in U.S. apartment fires. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, state law requires a landlord to provide a working smoke and carbon monoxide detector for every apartment unit.

Huber says that there is a common misconception that people will wake up from smoke during a fire, but says nothing is further from the truth.

"People tend to sleep through smoke, the carbon monoxide from the fire keeps them from waking up, and without a smoke detector there's really no way to know you have a fire in your home," said Huber. 

That's why Huber recommends having a smoke and carbon monoxide detector, which can also be bought as a combination detector.

"Smoke is what kills," said Huber.

So he says having something to alert you can be the difference between life and death.

"People don't realize how quickly conditions deteriorate in a fire, and without that early warning, it's hard to be sure that you can get yourself and your family out safely," said Huber.

There are photoelectric and ionization smoke detectors. For the best protection the NFPA recommends that you have both types of detectors or a combination photoelectric and ionization detector in your home as they detect different forms of fire.

"The ionization detectors will detect a more rapid burning fire, so for example they say if a candle gets tipped over, and it's gonna burn a curtain, that's gonna be a fast moving fire where the photoelectric smoke detector is going to detect a smoldering fire such as a cigarette burning in a couch," said Currier.

Smoke detectors are powered either by 9 volt batteries or non replaceable long life batteries that last up to 10 years.

For a battery powered smoke detector, the NFPA recommends changing the batteries at least once a year, and replacing the device entirely every 10 years. It is also important to test your device once a month to make sure the alarm is working.

Smoke detectors can also be hard wired into the AC electrical system, which allows them to be interconnected. This is especially important in multi-level homes or apartments so that all of them sound together. If smoke detectors are interconnected, it's important that they are all from the same manufacturer as they may not sound otherwise.

Almost any Minnesota or Wisconsin home built in the last 20 years requires hard wired detectors with a battery back-up.

You should have a smoke detector on every floor including the basement, inside each bedroom, and outside each sleeping area. They should also be placed as close to the ceiling as possible.

Carbon monoxide detectors should also be placed on each floor and outside of each sleeping area.

Taking these precautions are an easy way to make sure everyone stays safe in the event of a fire.

And it's a small price to pay for the possibility of saving you or your family's lives.

"Don't gamble on not having a smoke detector. You think of all the things you do in your life to keep yourself safe, a smoke detector is a very important and very simple way to protect your family," said Huber.

That way you'll be ready for anything that comes your way.

There are also detectors on the market that are hooked up to a visual strobe for anyone that is hearing impaired.

You can find more information about all different detectors at: https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/Public-Education/By-topic/Smoke-alarms/Smoke-Alarm-Installation-Guide.pdf

Credits

Ryan Juntti

Copyright 2018 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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