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Smoke Alarms – Part 1

Smoke Alarms – Part 1

Smoke Alarms in Adelaide – Part 1

A guide to smoke detectors and smoke alarms.Fire - smoke alarms

Why do we need smoke alarms? The smoke from a house fire causes eye irritation and blurs vision. House fires also produce poisons in the smoke that cause disorientation, impaired perception and confusion. This combination of effects, reduce the ability for us to find an exit during a fire.

A smoke alarm provides an early warning that is needed to save lives and reduce property damage. Here are some interesting facts;

  • When asleep you lose your sense of smell.
  • A small fire can grow to engulf a bedroom or small room in 4 minutes.
  • There are approximately 11,000 house fires per year in Australia.

Statistics regarding smoke detector checks from the 2015 Duracell Fire Safety Study:

  • 93% are not undertaking monthly checks.
  • 3 million people in Australia have never tested their smoke detectors.

In South Australia there were 836 fires in 2014. There were also 2 avoidable deaths which could have been prevented with working and well maintained smoke alarms. Consider that most fire related deaths are the result of inhalation of poisonous and toxic gases produced during a house fire, and not direct contact with flame. You can see why it is then imperative to fit an early warning device; the smoke alarm or detector. Just as important is that we need to correctly maintain, check and know when replacement is due of all types of smoke alarms.

Maintaining Your Smoke Detector

Once a year, or if the battery warning beep sounds before, replace the battery with the correct type according to manufacturer instructions. Most of us have heard on the news or radio that when we change our clocks back after daylight saving, is the time to replace our smoke detector batteries. This applies to battery only AND mains powered alarms which have a battery backup. Note that some mains powered smoke alarms now have a 10 year long life lithium battery that requires no battery maintenance.

A smoke detector should be tested once every month. Most of us know how to do this by pressing the test button and waiting for the alarm to sound. What some of us aren’t aware of is that a mains powered smoke alarm should have its mains supply isolated before testing to ensure the battery backup is indeed working. This means turning the circuit breaker off on the switch board. If you had a good electrician install your mains powered smoke detector they would have taken the guess work out by doing what we do….At Adelaide Electric we install smoke detectors and label your switchboard! Simple, but without the label a 2 minute job could take 10 minutes and resetting every clock in the house.

This is the maintenance procedure you don’t hear much about, cleaning. It makes sense that your ‘detector’ of smoke particles needs to be clean and clear of dust and cobwebs to function correctly. A dirty smoke detector is a blind smoke detector and may not perform at its optimum. Cleaning chemicals should not be used, merely a wipe over with the soft end of the vacuum cleaner attachment. This should be performed every 6 months.

Don’t paint the smoke detector. Paints can impair the performance of the internal (or external) sensors. Unfortunately at Adelaide Electric we often come across houses with painted smoke alarms.

According to AS3786, smoke alarms have a service life of 10 years under normal circumstances. At this stage they should be replaced.