National Fire Prevention Week: Smoke Detector Information

Posted by: Jack Doyle

Published: October 7, 2015

This week is Fire Prevention Week which means it’s time to discuss some important topics in regards to how you can prevent a house fire and what to do in case of such emergency. Today’s post is all about smoke detectors. Here are some frequently asked questions, along with their answers:

What Kinds of Smoke Detectors are available?

There are two common types of smoke detectors available on the market today: Ionization and Photoelectric.  

Ionization smoke detectors have small amounts of radioactive material that sit between two electrically charged metal plates.  When smoke enters the detector, the smoke bonds to the ions creating a disruption in the electrical path the ions create and thus signaling to the detector that there is a fire.

The second type is Photoelectric.  This type of smoke detector has a beam of light the shines in a straight line within the device.  Below the beam is a sensor that, when exposed to particles of light, will trip the alarm.  When smoke enters the chamber of the device, it will get in the path of the light beam causing light particles to be re-directed towards the sensor.  This sets off the alarm.

 Which of these detectors is best for my home?

This depends on what type of environment you're installing the smoke detector in.  Ionization type detectors are best for flash fire type situations where there will be actual flames occurring quickly.  Places like your kitchen are typically good environments for this type of detector.  Photoelectric type sensors are preferred for detecting smoldering type fires where thick smoke will be observed well before any actual flames.  The best environment for these is in a bedroom or living room, where accidental fires may grow slowly, feeding off of home furnishings.

Better yet is a combination type detector.  There are several models available that I recommend to my clients.  Each type has its own particular strengths, so for best results I recommend a combination model. At the very least I recommend that you have a combination of both types of detectors within the home.

Equally important though is supervision of the smoke detectors.

 What is a supervised smoke detector?

A supervised smoke detector is one that communicates it's activation to an outside source, such as a monitoring center.  Most smoke detectors, such as the ones that may have come with your home, are what we refer to as "unsupervised". 

 Why is it important to have supervised smoke detectors?

Unsupervised devices sound a siren when they're tripped, which is effective while you're in the home. However, these devices do very little good when the homeowner is out.  A supervised device, working in concert with a professionally installed security system, will notify a monitoring center of the alarm. The monitoring center can, in turn, dispatch the fire department immediately.

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Jack Doyle

Jack is Doyle Security's Director of Business Development and represents the fifth generation of Doyle Family Ownership with the company.

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