Smoke Alarms and Co Alarms Save Lives

July 15, 2015

Make Fire Protection A Priority

It is estimated that 94% of all homes in North America have at least one smoke alarm. Most homeowners understand that a functioning smoke alarm significantly reduces the incident of home fire related deaths. Home fire deaths have steadily decreased as the numbers of homes with working smoke alarms has increased. Unfortunately, our residential electricians are finding that many homes are equipped with non-functioning or unreliable smoke detectors. Battery powered units containing dead batteries or no batteries at all (because someone “borrowed” them) have unknowing homeowners living with a false sense of security, believing they are protected in the event of a house fire. Some units have been intentionally disconnected as they created an annoyance when activated by steam or smoke from a nearby kitchen or bathroom. In some cases an aging device, now 8 to 10 years old, is still being entrusted with the safety of the occupants.

House FireFortunately there are solutions to these problems and with just a bit of information, homeowners can choose the correct smoke detector for any location in their home. An inexpensive household smoke alarm can save your life by sounding an alarm, alerting you to a fire, and giving you time to escape safely.

Types of smoke Alarms

There are two types of smoke alarms on the market today though it is possible to purchase a unit that combines both technologies.

  • Ionization detectors respond more quickly to flame fires which often produce smaller combustion particles such as in a burning waste paper basket or grease fire. Because of this sensitivity, it is possible they are more easily activated by normal cooking activities.
  • Photoelectric units seem to respond more quickly to smoldering fires such as a cigarette dropped on a mattress or couch. Both types can be activated by steam or a high humidity environment.

Specialized smoke alarms for the hearing impaired are also available. A flashing strobe light, bright enough to cut through the room’s natural or incandescent lighting, in addition to the piercing alarm, alerts the home occupant of a fire. Some units also come equipped with a portable vibrating disk to be placed under the pillow at night.
Most fire related deaths occur at night while people are asleep. The smoke from a fire may not awaken the occupants; rather it may act as a sedative and actually put them into an even deeper sleep. Therefore, an up-to-date, functioning smoke alarm is the best early warning system in the unfortunate event of a house fire.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Sensors should also be installed to warn of increased levels of this deadly poisonous gas. The BC Building Code provides guidelines as to where these units must be located. CO gas is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas produced by fuel-burning appliances such as a gas range or hot water tank, wood, coal or gas fireplace, or an idling vehicle in an enclosed garage, among other things. A dangerous situation may quickly arise if venting is inadequate or compromised in any way. These sensors can be purchased singly or in combination with ionization smoke alarm units.

The BC Building Code stipulates that an interconnected smoke alarm be located on every level of the home, and in very specific locations in the home. If one alarm is activated, all connecting units will sound, thereby alerting everyone in the house of the danger. The most recent Code revision states that smoke alarms must be placed inside all sleeping rooms.

Child Sleeping SafeTests show that children are more likely to be awakened by a talking alarm as opposed to one that just sounds a shrill alarm.

Along with proper installation, it is important that each smoke/CO alarm is correctly positioned to maximize its’ effectiveness in regards to the room’s air flow. Ceiling installation is recommended as smoke, heat and combustion products rise upwards, then spread out horizontally.

Blue Crest Electric electricians are able to supply and correctly install the required number of interconnected fire alarms for your home. Call us at any of the numbers listed on our contact page.


As with all electrical components, regular care and maintenance of your smoke alarms is necessary. This ensures that the units are functioning properly and will activate when you most need them.

Here are a few tips to keep your units working for you.

  • Test your smoke alarms by pressing the test button once a month.
  • For battery operated smoke alarms, replace the battery at least once a year with brand new batteries.
  • Never “borrow” the smoke alarm battery for another use.
  • Vacuum the alarm regularly as cobwebs and dust can impair the alarm’s sensitivity.
  • Never paint a smoke alarm.
  • Check the expiration date on each unit and have it replaced before it expires. The shelf life of a smoke detector is generally 8-10 years, and CO detection is generally 5-7 years. Expired units are not considered to be reliable.

Develop A Home Fire Escape Plan

And finally, in addition to equipping your home with proper smoke and CO alarms, please take the time to develop a home fire escape plan. Then review and practice it regularly with the other occupants of the home. Your local fire department and library will be able to provide you with information on how to plan your home fire escape route.

Your life, and your family’s life, may depend on it.

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