Home Improvement: Fire Safety

Home Improvement: Fire Safety


Have you been awakened by a consistent chirping noise only to realize it is the low battery indicator for your smoke detector? But did you replace the battery or remove it and go back to sleep, thinking that you’ll take care of that later? Many people do the latter and then forget about it. Hopefully, tragedy won’t strike their homes before they remember.


October slipped by without us mentioning that October is fire safety month and appropriately so – as we approach the holiday seasons, devices like fireplaces and fire pits are put into use with the cooler weather. Prevention is the best method to protect you and your family, so let’s cover a few of the top ones for your list.


First of all, let’s talk about anything involving fire – candles, fireplaces, fire pits, kerosene heaters and so on. Make sure all combustible material is a safe distance from the flames. Never leave burning candles unattended even, if they are inside a jack-o-lantern that’s outdoors. Dry leaves can blow against the pumpkin, causing it to catch fire and transfer the fire to your home. Fire pits left to burn out overnight without a spark screen are even more dangerous. Interior fireplaces are safer, but again should include a spark screen to prevent hot embers from popping onto a close-by carpet.


Along with the obvious, the flue of a chimney should be checked for obstructions such as bird’s nests that can catch fire, possibly igniting creosote build-up and doing major damage to your chimney. If you use your fireplace frequently, you should also consider a chimney sweep each year to clean out the build-up before experiencing a flue fire. You will know when you have one. It sounds like a jet engine in your chimney, followed by cracking noises as the flue tiles crack from the rapid heating. These are your obvious sources of a house fire.


Some of the less obvious but just as dangerous year-round are excessive lint build-up in the dryer vent, unattended cooking and electrical fires. You can easily check your dryer vent by feeling the amount of airflow coming out of the exhaust opening outside your home. If it is questionable, pull your dryer out, disconnect the ducting from the back of your dryer and look in the duct for build-up. Most HVAC companies can check and clean this for you if you have any doubts about your own capability.


So, you have done everything you know to do to prevent a fire – how do you protect your family if you have one? Properly working smoke detectors are still the best warning devices. Properly working involves more than just making sure they have fresh batteries installed.


There are two main types of smoke detectors: ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. Each has its purpose and a complete system usually involves both. Ionization detectors usually respond more quickly to flaming fires, but photoelectric detectors are better for smoldering fires. Many times with a smoldering fire, occupants have died from lack of oxygen before an ionization alarm ever sounds. Photoelectric detectors are not as common, especially in rental properties because they are more costly than ionization models.


A combination of the two along with a heat detector provides the best protection. Ionization detectors should also be replaced about every 10 years as the radioactive particles that make them work deteriorate, reducing the sensitivity. The proper type and charged fire extinguisher should also be handy to put out small fires. Along with warning devices, it is important to have a means of exit from upper levels and a designated meeting place once outside to insure everyone is safe, so firefighters do not unnecessarily risk their lives searching for someone already out of a building.


Fire can be both beautiful and devastating. Hopefully you never have to experience the devastating side. If you ever do, though, Home Services Link can assist you with emergency clean-up and restoration services. We also can provide the chimney sweep or duct cleaner or even the handyman to change the batteries in your smoke detectors so your preventative measures are in place. We can be reached at info@homeserviceslink.com or 513-271-1888.