Author: Brian Haines
N.C. Emergency Management echoes the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) theme for National Fire Prevention Week, which was Oct. 3 - 9, and encourages everyone to Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety.
The blaring beeping of a fire alarm or carbon monoxide (CO) detector is the last thing any of us want to hear, especially when woken from a deep sleep. However, it’s important to know that both types of alarms serve different functions and do exactly what their name suggests: smoke alarms detect smoke and CO detectors warn you about carbon monoxide. In either case, whenever the incessant chirping starts singing, it’s time to act to protect you and your family by getting out and calling 911.
The NFPA offers the following tips on the Sounds of Fire Safety:
- A continuous set of three loud beeps—beep, beep, beep—means smoke or fire. Get out and stay out, call 911.
- A single chirp every 30 or 60 seconds means the battery is low and must be changed.
- All smoke alarms must be replaced after 10 years.
- Chirping that continues after the battery has been replaced means the alarm is at the end of its life and the unit must be replaced.
- Make sure your smoke and CO alarms meet the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities.
According to the NFPA, you may have as little as two minutes to escape a fire safely. While you don’t need a smoke alarm in your kitchen or bathroom, they do suggest having smoke alarms in every bedroom and outside of sleeping areas, such as in a hallway. You should also have them on each floor of your home, including the basement.
An odorless, colorless gas that displaces oxygen in your body and brain, carbon monoxide can render you unconscious quickly, putting you at risk of death. As carbon monoxide is a little lighter than air and may rise with warm air, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests, if possible, to place the detector on a wall about five feet above the floor, preferably out of reach of pets and children. It may also be placed on the ceiling if needed. However, you should not place the detector next to or over a fireplace or flame-producing appliance. The EPA also recommends having one on each floor. However, if you only get one, place it near the sleeping area and loud enough to wake you up.
When choosing alarms and detectors, NFPA recommends those listed with a testing laboratory to ensure it meets certain standards for protection. They also say for the best protection, have a licensed electrician install combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that are interconnected throughout the home so you can hear the alarm wherever in your home the alarm originates.
For the deaf and hard of hearing, there are smoke alarms and alert devices that include strobe lights, as well as pillow or bed shakers designed to work with the smoke alarms that can warn of fire or carbon monoxide. Visit the NFPA page for Fire Safety for the deaf or hard of hearing for more information.
Be sure to visit the NFPA website to learn more about fire safety, including making a Family Home Safety Action Plan that can be incorporated into your family emergency communication plan. For more information on planning, preparing and staying informed in case of an emergency, visit ReadyNC.org. To learn more about fire safety outdoors, visit the N.C. Forest Service website.