Fire alarms are one of the most inexpensive ways to protect a home and it's family. When installed according to the manufacturer's instructions, they have been found to save countless lives and prevent significant loss of property. A fire alarm is an instrument that must be properly installed and kept up to date with periodic maintenance. They are so important that laws have been passed to not only mandate their installation, but also to govern their state from year to year with regular inspections.
There are two types of sensors that make up the bulk of all fire alarms. The first type is called an ionization sensor. This type of sensor does well at detecting fires which are burning very fast and moving though the structure. Those types of fires release ionized gas that can be tracked. The second type of sensor is called a photoelectric detector. This uses a small, light-sensitive device to try and spot pieces of particulate matter that is in the air. These particles are given off by fires that are burning more slowly, releasing more smoke that is heavier with debris.
Almost every governmental agency that deals with fire safety recommends using a fire alarm that contains both an ionization and photoelectric sensor. These types of units are known as dual sensor alarms. Dual sensor alarms are the most accurate way to detect a fire, no matter what the cause.
No matter what type it is, no fire alarm can be effective if it is not placed in the correct area. Heated gasses tend to rise, and since both types of sensors detect some particles floating in the air, it is important to mount the alarm high up in the room. The manufacturer's instructions will have exact details, but expect the placement to be on the roof, or very near it.
Every single level of the house, including the basement, should have at least one fire alarm. The alarms should also be installed inside each of the rooms where someone might sleep, as well as outside those same rooms. This is the most effective way to prevent serious injury from smoke inhalation or even death.
Once fire alarms are properly installed, it is necessary to devise an unambiguous plan for the family to follow should the alarms ever sound. Plot out different escape routes through the home, taking into account the possibility that certain stairwells or exits may be blocked by fire. Know where the family should meet if everyone becomes separated leaving the home. Every family member should have the plan memorized, and it should be practiced at least once every six months.
The most difficult step to remember when dealing with fire safety goes beyond installation and planning. It is the routine maintenance of the fire alarms themselves. For units that require a battery to run, or use them as a backup power source, the batteries must be replaced every six months regardless of how much power is left in them. The alarm should also be kept very clean since dust particles can reduce the ability of the sensors to detect particles. Keeping a fire alarm in good working order when it is installed correctly can help reduce the chances of being seriously injured in a fire.