Smoke Detectors

Chances are that while about 95% of you have a smoke alarm in your home, 20% do not work due to worn or missing batteries - this means nearly 19 million homes are at needless risk nationwide! A working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide (CO) alarm can provide the critical extra seconds people need to escape a tragedy. Over 6,000 deaths occur in house fires each year. Most people die from smoke and toxic gases rather than the fire itself. The peak time for home fatalities is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when most families are sleeping. As fall and cooler weather approaches and everyone is busy with activities, testing and maintenance of these warning devices are forgotten! This is the time to protect your family from the tragedy of fire and CO poisoning by putting new batteries in your alarms!
To increase the odds for more than the 25,000 residents who could be at risk, Fire and Life Safety Education of the Sanford Fire Department is urging people not only to check their smoke and carbon monoxide alarm batteries when they move their clocks when the time changes, but to replace those batteries to ensure that these alarms will be in good working condition for the busy winter months.

Replacing smoke and carbon monoxide alarm batteries twice a year is one of the simplest, most effective ways to reduce the number of deaths and injuries related to poisoning and home fires. A working smoke alarm and development of a home escape plan, along with yearly home fire drills, more than doubles your chances of surviving a home fire. Without working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to act as an early warning device, fire and poisonous gases can spread unnoticed throughout the household, blocking escape routes and filling rooms with deadly smoke and toxic gases. Also, you should practice your evacuation plan by doing at least two home fire drills a year!

The Danger


Over 6,000 deaths occur in house fires each year. Most people die from smoke and toxic gases rather than the fire itself. Many never even wake up.

Most fire deaths are preventable. Protect yourself and your family by:
  • Purchase one or more smoke alarms.
  • Install your alarms properly.
  • Identify escape routes and practice escaping.
  • Maintain your alarms.
A smoke alarm is a fire alarm that buzzes when it detects smoke, warning you in time to escape.

What kind You Should Buy


  • There are 2 types of smoke alarms, Ionization and Photoelectric
  • An ionization smoke alarm uses a small amount of radioactive material to ionize air in the sensing chamber. When products of combustion enter the chamber, the conductivity of the chamber air decreases. When this reduction reaches a predetermined level, the alarm sounds.
Photoelectric is the most common smoke alarm. A photoelectric smoke alarm consists of a light emitting diode and a light sensitive sensing chamber. The presence of suspended products of combustion in the chamber scatters the light beam. The scattered light is detected and sets off the alarm.

Both ionization and photoelectric alarms are effective smoke sensors. Both types of smoke alarms must pass the same test to be certified as UL smoke detectors. Ionization alarms respond more quickly to flaming fires with smaller combustion particles; photoelectric alarms respond more quickly to smoldering fires. In either type of alarm, steam or high humidity can lead to condensation on the circuit board and sensor, causing the alarm to sound. Ionization alarms are less expensive than photoelectric alarms, but some users purposely disable them because they are more likely to sound an alarm from normal cooking due to their sensitivity to minute smoke particles.

How Much Smoke Alarm Cost


  • A smoke alarm may be purchased at most retail stores for about $10

How Many You Should Have Your House

  • There should be a least one smoke alarm on every level of your household. Additional alarms will significantly increase your chances of survival.

Where You Should Install Your Smoke Alarms


  • Smoke alarms should be placed on the ceiling or high on a wall near the bedrooms. This enables the alarm to sense the smoke as it approaches the sleeping area. Install your smoke alarm away from air outlet vents to prevent dust accumulation. Call your local fire station for advice on the best place to install your alarms.

How to Install Smoke Alarms


  • Battery-operated and "plug-in" electric alarms can be attached directly to the ceiling or wall.
  • "Wired-in" electric alarms are somewhat more difficult to install and may require an electrician.

Know How to Escape


  • Your smoke alarm will awaken you, but you may not be thinking clearly. You should practice escaping before an emergency strikes.
  • Why?
  • Once a fire has started, it spreads rapidly. You may have only seconds to get out. Normal exits from bedrooms may be blocked by smoke or fire. It is important everyone knows exactly what to do.

Identify Escape Routes


  • Plan 2 exits from every room. Second story windows may need a rope or chain ladder to enable occupants to escape safely. Choose a meeting place outside the home so you'll know everyone has escaped.

Practice Escaping


  • Practice allows you to test your plan before a real emergency. You may not be able to reach your children! It is important that they know exactly what to do.

Maintenance is Important


  • Your smoke alarm must be maintained properly to provide you and your family with protection.
How to maintain my smoke alarms
  • Replace batteries according to the manufacturer's instructions. Remember to change batteries when you change your clocks!
  • Dust the grill of your alarm.
  • Test your alarm monthly or according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Smoke Alarm Program


In 2001, the Smoke Alarm Installation Program began; Fire Department personnel install smoke alarms for residents identified as low income, elderly or handicapped. To find out more about this program call 919-775-8310 or contact your nearest fire station.