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Fire, Smoke, & Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Fire and smoke often overcoming victims while they sleep. Consequently, most fire and smoke detectors sound a loud, alarm-clock like alarm at the first signs of trouble in order to wake and alert people in the vicinity of the problem. Carbon monoxide (CO), on the other hand, can kill day or night because it's presence is invisible and its affects are slower and less noticeable. Homes with combustion equipment (gas stoves, water heaters, furnaces, and space heaters) and attached garages should have a carbon monoxide detector.

Features to Consider

Whether you choose an "all in one" detector or separate detectors, here are features we suggest you consider:

  • detector type - smoke detectors typically use ionic or optical sensing to detect smoke. Ionic detectors are more sensitive to small, invisible smoke particles. Optical detectors are sensitive to visible smoke. Both types receive the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approval, and it is difficult to say which is better without knowing the type of fire. Consequently, some units have both types of detectors for increased sensitivity.
  • power supply - most detectors are battery operated, which means they operate even during a power failure but require periodic changing of the battery. Other units are powered by wiring directly into the house's power and so have the opposite pro's and cons. If practical for your home, we recommend units that are both directly wired and have a battery back-up.
  • alarm - most will sound an audible alarm, some will also illuminate an area near the detector to facilitate exit at night. More expensive units will automatically dial an emergency number or notify an alarm company in order to summon help should you not be home. However, for most purposes, an audible alarm and light should be a sufficient, cost-effective approach.
  • test - make sure the unit has a test button to verify that it works.

  • silence - it is very helpful if you burn toast to be able to silence (deactivate) the alarm for a short period. This button should work like the "snooze" button on an alarm clock; it should NOT be an on/off button, as you do not want to risk forgetting to turn the alarm back on.

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