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October 2010

Fire prevention tips: Install and test your smoke alarms

Editor’s Note: 21st Century Insurance knows the importance of your family's safety. We also know that, for most people, your home is your biggest investment. In recognition of National Fire Protection week, Oct. 3 - 9, 2010, we're encouraging you to read the following information from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on the importance of smoke alarms in your home.

A few smoke alarm facts:

  • Smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a reported fire by 50 percent.

  • Each year, nearly 3,000 people die in U.S. home fires.

  • In 2003-2006, roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from home fires in homes with non working or no smoke alarms.

  • Overall, three-quarters of all U.S. homes have at least one working smoke alarm.

Did you know that smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home (including the basement), outside each sleeping area and inside each bedroom? And larger homes may need additional smoke alarms placed throughout the house.

The NFPA highly recommends the "interconnection" of smoke alarms, because when one smoke alarm sounds, they all do. This is particularly important in larger or multi-story homes, where the sound from distant smoke alarms may be reduced to the point that it may not be loud enough to provide proper warning, especially for sleeping individuals. A licensed electrician can install hard-wired multiple-station alarms. Wireless alarms, which manufacturers have more recently begun producing, can be installed by the homeowner.

Smoke alarm tips:
Look below for additional smoke alarm tips from the NFPA:

  • Test smoke alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button. If an alarm "chirps," warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.

  • All smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and those that are hard-wired alarms, should be replaced when they are 10 years old (or sooner) if they do not respond properly when tested.

  • Never remove or disable a smoke alarm.

About smoke alarm technology 
There are two types of smoke alarm technologies - ionization and photoelectric. An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, like a pan fire or the smoke from cooking. A photoelectric alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires, like a cigarette, overheated wiring or something hot like a space heater.

Install both types of alarms in your home or a combination of ionization and photoelectric alarms that take advantage of both technologies.

Smoke alarms for the deaf and hard of hearing
There are some smoke alarms with strobes or the ability to be used with strobes - also called visible notification appliances - that signal to awaken those that are deaf (those with profound hearing loss). The use of tactile notification appliances (such as a pillow or bed shaker) is also now required*, and activated by the sound of the smoke alarm. The means for signaling to awaken those who are hard of hearing (those with mild to severe hearing loss) is through the use of a complex, low-frequency audible signal. Smoke alarms currently on the market do not produce this signal. However, separate notification appliances are available that do produce this signal, and are activated by the sound of the smoke alarm.

To view instructions on how to safely install a fire alarm in your home, click here.

Remember - 21st Century Insurance and the NFPA want you to stay informed and safe.

Portions of this article were reproduced from NFPA's Fire Prevention Week Web site, www.firepreventionweek.org. ©2010 NFPA. For more information on fire safety, visit the NFPA at www.nfpa.org.

* Where required by governing laws, codes or standards for people with hearing loss. Source: www.nfpa.org.

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