In the aftermath of a house fire on Oct. 11, which claimed the lives of a Shirley mom and her three children during Fire Prevention Week, the East Meadow Fire Department would like to take a moment to promote the urgent need for residents to act.
Other than losing a fellow firefighter, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to replace the pain and anguish that a firefighter has when a resident dies in a fire he or she responded to.
Although little information is known about the circumstances in Shirley, nor will we begin to speculate, eyewitness accounts lead us to believe that the fire was so advanced that little could be done to change the outcome. We are hopeful that every firefighter who responded to the Shirley fire that night can in some way identify with that statement.
At this time, it is unclear whether the smoke detectors, which were present, were working at the time of the fire.
The purpose of this article is to make every effort to ensure our residents are equipped with these early warning devices. We urge all residents to read and fully comply with the urgency of our volunteers.
First, with Fire Prevention Week now passed, we urge all families to continue fire safety practice and education all year round.
Second, as we approach our “Change Your Clock, Change Your Batteries” campaign (Nov. 3, 2013), we urge just that.
Before we get into the types and locations of your smoke detectors, here are a few things you should know, as well as a few very helpful hints.
- According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
- Every 169 minutes there is a serious home fire somewhere in the United States.
- In 2012 alone, there were 480,500 serious residential fires, resulting in the deaths of 2,470 civilians and 14,700 injuries in the U.S.
- A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.
There have been many cases in years past where East Meadow firefighters responded to a fire and found a non-working detector.
In many cases the batteries were dead, or even pulled out because they were beeping a low battery alarm, and residents simply failed to remember to replace them.
The simple solution to this reminder is to leave the smoke detector cover off or leave it hanging as an intrusive reminder to the family by appearance.
Be sure to mark your batteries with the month and year in permanent ink to verify its age in the event you miss the annual campaign.
For the most part the two most common smoke detector types are the ionization and the more popular photoelectric.
If you know nothing about a smoke detector either model is certainly acceptable for your home, however, after reading this information, you will find that a resident who purchases both types will certainly meet the advice of professionals.
Both types of smoke detectors must pass the same test to be certified as UL smoke detectors.
Here are differences between the two:
Ionization Smoke Detector
The Ionization smoke detector is generally more responsive to flaming fires. This type of technology has a minute amount of radioactive material between two electrically charged plates, which ionize the air and causes current to flow between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts the flow of ions, thus reducing the flow of current and activating the alarm.
Photoelectric Smoke Detector
The Photoelectric smoke detector is generally more responsive to fires that begin with a long period of smoldering (called “smoldering fires”). This technology aims a light source into a sensing chamber at an angle away from the sensor. Smoke enters the chamber, reflecting light onto the light sensor; triggering the alarm.
For each type of smoke alarm, the advantage it provides may be critical to life safety in these different fire situations. Home fatal fires, day or night, include a large number of smoldering fires and a large number of flaming fires. You cannot predict the type of fire you may have in your home or when it will occur.
Any smoke alarm technology, to be acceptable, must perform acceptably for both types of fires in order to provide early warning of fire at all times of the day or night and whether you are asleep or awake.
For best protection, it is recommended both (ionization and photoelectric) technologies be in your home. In addition to individual ionization and photoelectric alarms, combination alarms that include both technologies in a single device are available.
But technology doesn’t stop here. These days several manufacturers in the industry have designed smoke detectors with the ability to announce a general message of fire danger, or even a recording of a parent’s voice when a fire is detected.
Detectors for the hearing impaired as well as hard wired systems can also be found on the market.
Smoke detectors equipped with its own light to illuminate a hallway are still a preference. In the early warning of a fire where smoke has not reached the blinding stage, this light could be important, whether it lights the escape path or combines with the piercing alarm to awaken a family member or alert a family pet that may awaken those asleep.
Whereas 9 volt batteries are common for the battery operated device, Lithium batteries boasting a 10-year life are becoming successful as well. It is important to note that like carbon monoxide detectors, many smoke detector manufacturers are setting life expectancies to replace the detectors much sooner than this type of battery life.
Based on the size, layout and location of your living space, the following are our recommendations:
At a minimum, we recommend one smoke alarm per level of your home.
Smoke alarms should be placed at the highest level (ceiling) for earliest possible detection. It must be understood that smoke and heat of a fire will rise to the highest level and spread horizontally.
Your smoke detectors should be located in an area close to sleeping quarters to ensure they can be heard when activated.
Your smoke detectors should never be placed in close proximity to cooking areas or areas subject to steam such as a bathroom shower.
There are a few other points to make. Like anything else we purchase for our home, you should maintain a copy of the manufacturer’s instructions in your files. Such information can be helpful to look back at when you need to know replacement age or refresh yourself on testing methods, care, features and types of alarm or chirps to indicate a need for service.
Mark your date of purchase on the manual to ensure age information.
In closing, we remind our residents that your East Meadow volunteers are at the ready 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with the most knowledgeable men and women, and the latest in fire equipment to protect residents.
But we need your help ... We ask all residents to act now, and follow these guidelines to prevent a tragedy in your home. And if something goes wrong in your home, your early warning will give us the best chance at protecting your property, and possibly saving a life.
So many times we hear the victims of a fire, be it small or large, comment that they never thought it could happen to them. There is no room for complacency in fire safety. Check your detector immediately, and replace it, or the batteries, now.
If you have a fire, call our Fire Dispatch Center at 542-0576. For non-emergencies call our dispatcher at 542-0578 Extension 0, or our Chief's Office at 542-0580.
Do you have stickers on your phone? If you don’t, please email JOBrien@EastMeadowFD.Com. Firefighters can drop them off at your doorstep.
Want to become a volunteer firefighter or EMT? Visit EastMeadowFD.Com or call the recruitment hotline at 542-4565.
On behalf of Chief of Department Walter P. Griffin, Assistant Chiefs Salvesen Jr, Kane and McGee, and members of the East Meadow Fire Department, we urge you to comply with this message, and wish you the very best of safety, health and prosperity in your home.