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Norman Scott, Published July 25 2013

Letter: Smoke alarms cheap insurance to protect your family from fire

I read a news article concerning a fire in building that did not have smoke alarms and/or had smoke alarms that did not function in a timely manner. If you have a fire, smoke alarms that have been correctly installed and maintained will give you an early warning alarm. This alarm could save your life and also those of your family by giving you enough time to escape. Smoke alarms are pretty cheap insurance to protect you, your family and your home.

There are many brands of smoke alarms available that fall under two basic types: ionization and photoelectric. Ionization alarms will sound an alarm more quickly when a flaming, fast-moving fire occurs. Photoelectric alarms are quicker at sensing smoldering, smoky fires. There are also combination smoke alarms that combine ionization and photoelectric into one unit. Because both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting different types of fires, and because homeowners cannot predict what type of fire might start in a home, it is recommended that you install both ionization and photoelectric or dual-sensor smoke alarms.

Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Many fatal fires begin late at night or in the early morning. Install smoke alarms both inside and outside sleeping areas. Since smoke and many deadly gases rise, installing your smoke alarms at the proper height will provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Replace the batteries every year when we change over to daylight savings time or pick a meaningful date for you. If your smoke alarm starts making a “chirping” noise, replace the batteries and reset it. The entire alarm should be replaced every eight to 10 years.

Do not disable your smoke alarm if it sounds due to cooking or other non-fire causes. You may not remember to put the batteries back in after cooking. Instead, clear the air by waving a towel near the alarm, leaving the batteries in place. The alarm may need to be moved to a different location if it continually gives false alarms.

If everyone would follow these simple guidelines, we will definitely see more success stories in which the smoke alarm is the hero of what could have been a devastating outcome.

Scott is fire marshal, Fargo Fire Department.