Don’t let your world go up in smoke

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Smoke detector alarm | Pixabay

Neighborhood Safe Neighborhood #12

by Staff Neighborhood Safety Reporter


Recently, we discussed home fires; how and where they start, and ways to minimize your risk.

https://bellevuezone.town.news/g/bellevue-wa/n/45796/fire-safety-tips-do-you-know-what-leading-cause-house-fires-read?utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

Forewarned is forearmed! An alert from an alarm can provide a tactical advantage to protect you and your family from fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. With the increased use of synthetics in our homes, escape time has decreased. You may have only 3 minutes!

  • Three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms
  • More than one-third of home fire deaths result from fires in which no smoke alarms are present.
  • The risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms.

There is a difference between a “Smoke Alarm,” a “Carbon Monoxide Alarm,” and a “Smoke Detector.” (although combination smoke alarm/carbon monoxide alarms are available.)

Unlike a smoke alarm, a SMOKE DETECTOR (Underwriters Lab/UL 268) is wired to a fire alarm panel.

Ask your insurance company if you qualify for a policy discount for using alarms.

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A SMOKE ALARM

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If you live in a rental unit (home, apartment or condominium) the owner is required by state law (RCW 43.44.110) to provide smoke detectors. However, the tenant is responsible for maintenance of the detectors.

A smoke alarm has both a smoke sensor and a sounder. In May of 2020, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) came out with a new standard for smoke alarms that radically changed the market, (UL 217). The new alarms contain an algorithm chip, making them a ‘smart alarm.’ These alarms can differentiate non-hostile cooking vapors, a smoldering fire, or a fast acting fire. When shopping for an alarm(s), look for the description, “Dual-Sensor Smoke Detectors.”

In older devices, cooking vapors caused “nuisance alarms,” in which the frustrated homeowner would often remove the battery or disable the alarm. It is not uncommon for the fire department to find a disabled alarm after responding to a 9-1-1 fire emergency.

The new alarms also have wireless interconnectivity. For example, if you have several floors and multiple alarms in your home, the sound from one alarm device can activate the other alarms in the house … even before smoke has reached that room, giving you precious time to escape! Some can even send a WiFi alert to your smartphone … even if you’re not home!

Take time to research which Smoke Alarm(s) would best suit your needs:

__ Battery operated: Battery-only are the simplest to install and they work during a power outage. Some models require annual replacement batteries. Others have lithium sealed batteries that last the life of the detector.

__ Plug-in detectors may be a challenge as electric outlets are usually located low on the wall, yet placement for the detector should be on or near the ceiling.

__ Hard wired detectors usually require professional installation.

__ For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available.

__ Smoke alarms with a strobe light outside the home can catch the attention of neighbors, and emergency call systems for summoning help, are also available.

Location(s) to install Smoke Alarms

__ On the ceiling or wall outside of each sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of bedrooms

__ In each room used for sleeping purposes

__ In each story within a dwelling unit including basements but not including crawl spaces

__ Other recommended areas: kitchen (but not within 20 feet of cooking or steam producing areas), furnace, top of stairs.

__ Avoid placement within 3 feet of air diffusers.

Don’t forget to maintain your battery operated smoke alarm(s):

__ Some provide a warning chirp, a low-battery voice message, or a visual display.

__ Test smoke alarm batteries every month. If you can't reach the test button on your smoke alarm, ask someone to test it for you.

__ Change the battery, as directed in the alarm manual.

__ Replace the entire smoke alarm after 10 years. Look for the manufacture date.

__ Vacuum regularly around alarms.

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A CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM

(can be a combination unit with a smoke alarm)

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Washington State law (RCW 19.27.530) requires carbon monoxide alarms to be installed in new residences. As of January 1, 2013, carbon monoxide alarms are required in existing apartments, condominiums, hotels, motels, and single-family residences, with some exceptions. Owner-occupied single-family residences, legally occupied before July 26, 2009, are not required to have carbon monoxide alarms until they are sold.

Pearl Nardella, of Windermere Real Estate, further explained, “It must be installed for an appraiser to photograph for their appraisal if the buyer is obtaining a mortgage to purchase the house.”

Carbon Monoxide poisoning is often referred to as the silent killer because it is odorless, tasteless, and invisible. The symptoms of CO poisoning mimic the flu or other common illnesses and often go undiagnosed.

The leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America is carbon monoxide (CO). The CDC estimates that approximately 400 people die from unintentional CO exposure in the United States every year.

Yet, carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by simply installing a CO alarm and maintaining fuel burning appliances.

At home and the office:

Carbon monoxide can be emitted from a number of fuel-burning sources, including everyday items and appliances in your home or office: a clothes dryer, water heater, furnace or boiler, wood stove, fireplace (both gas and wood burning), gas stove or oven, motor vehicles, grill, generator, power tools, lawn equipment, even tobacco smoke! Have your chimney professionally cleaned and the chimney opening free from debris, like leaves.

Installation locations:

__ Outside of each separate dwelling unit sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms.

__ On every level of a dwelling unit, including basements but excluding attics and crawl spaces.

__ Follow the manufacturer’s written instructions that accompany the unit.

Power Supply:

In existing structures carbon monoxide alarms may be battery operated, plug-in, or hard wired.

Alarm Maintenance

The maintenance of a carbon monoxide alarm in RENTAL units, including the replacement of batteries, is the responsibility of the TENANT, who shall maintain the alarm as specified by the manufacturer.

Alarms in Recreational Settings:

CO alarms are also recommended for motorhomes and boats. Be aware of exhaust from neighboring RVs and boats when parked near them, too.

Pay attention to camp stoves, charcoal grills, fuel-burning lanterns and generators. They should never be used inside a tent, RV or cabin. Do not place portable generators near open doors and windows.

Ice fishing houses that use heating equipment should have a working CO alarm installed and users should crack a window for additional ventilation

Know the symptoms of CO poisoning

The first signs of exposure might be as simple as a mild headache and breathlessness with moderate exercise. Continued exposure can result in severe headaches, dizziness, fatigue and nausea. Prolonged exposure may progress to confusion, irritability, impaired judgment and coordination, and loss of consciousness. To differentiate between CO poisoning and the flu ask yourself:

__ Do I feel better when I am away from home?
__ Is everyone sick at the same time?

__ Are the family members most affected the ones who spend the most time in the house?

__ Do indoor pets appear ill?

__ Do my symptoms appear or seem to get worse when using fuel-burning equipment?

__ Are some flu symptoms missing, like a fever, body aches or swollen lymph nodes?

Remember, the most valuable things in a fire are the PEOPLE inside. Alarms can provide valuable time to safely escape. Do not go back for anything inside.

References:

https://bellevuewa.gov/city-government/departments/fire/fire-prevention/information

https://bellevuewa.gov/sites/default/files/media/pdf_document/m11077-4_SmokeAlarm_Detector_Existing.pdf

https://bellevuewa.gov/city-government/departments/fire/fire-prevention/information/alarm-detector-requirements

https://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Contaminants/CarbonMonoxide

https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/air/toxins/index.html

https://pemco.com/blog/carbon-monoxide-safety-tips

https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/smoke_alarms.html

https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/crr.html

Underwriters Lab: https://smokealarms.ul.org

https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/smoke-carbon-monoxide-detectors/buying-guide/index.htm

https://www.westchestermedicalcenter.org/uploads/public/documents/WMC/Westchester-Medical-Center-Home-Safety-Checklist.pdf

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