It’s wildfire season here in the Prescott area, so I wanted to make today’s topic concerning home inspections all about fire safety in the home. Well, maybe not ALL about fire safety, but a few tips that may help you stay safe. Even us home inspectors need these reminders. Just last night our smoke alarm in our Prescott Valley home made the chirping (short beeps) noise that signals a need for a battery change (or possible reset).
If you don’t already have permanently installed smoke alarms hard-wired into your electrical system and located outside each bedroom and on each floor, purchase units and place them in those locations. Install them using adhesive or screws, but be careful not to touch your screwdriver to any internal wiring, which can cause an electrostatic discharge and disable them. Many smoke alarms are hard-wired into the home’s electrical system, but may still have batteries for backup in the event of a power outage. They also typically have a test button. Make sure you test them once a month, and replace the batteries once a year. If you hear a chirping noise, this is a signal that the batteries are weak and need replacing.
All new residential construction requires the installation of smoke alarms, usually on each floor of the home, as well as outside each sleeping area. Many newer smoke alarms can also detect carbon monoxide. This silent and odorless killer is one of the primary causes of accidental death because family members can be fatally poisoned while sleeping.
Smoke alarms come in two types. Photoelectric alarms can sense smoky and smoldering fires. Ionization alarms are quicker at detecting flames and fast-moving fire. Dual-sensor smoke alarms combine both these features, and are recommended by the USFA because it’s impossible to predict the type of fire that may erupt in a home. There are also smoke alarms that vibrate and/or flash strobe lights to alert home dwellers who are vision-impaired or hard of hearing.
The leading U.S. manufacturer of residential smoke alarms, as well as home fire extinguishers, is Kidde. Their dual-sensor smoke alarms were the subject of a voluntary recall by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in the summer of 2009 because of a malfunction caused by an electrostatic discharge created during their installation, rendering them inoperable. Make sure that you install any portable smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors safely, and test them after installation. You can also ask your local fire department to do this for you.