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Burns and Fire-Related Injury Prevention

Smoke Alarms

A working smoke alarm is one of the most effective and least expensive ways to avoid fire-related deaths and injuries.  They are responsible for nearly 50% decrease in fire deaths since the late 1970's.  The goal of Alaska's Programs for Prevention of Fire-related Injuries is to have working smoke alarms in Alaskan homes to prevent death and injuries.

Although most homes have at least one smoke alarm, too many are non-functional.  Batteries no longer work or are removed.  Nuisance alarms prompt too many people to disarm the smoke alarm. 

Regulations require that a smoke alarm be placed on each level of a house (including the basement).  They have been required in new buildings since 1998.  Landlords are responsible for installing a working alarm, and tenants are responsible for their upkeep.  The alarms should be installed according to the manufacturer's directions.  They should be tested weekly or monthly.

Types of Smoke Alarms  

Although they may look alike, there are some differences in alarms, and you need to read the packaging carefully.

Smoke alarms that use ionization technology (often less expensive) may respond a little faster to flaming fires, while photoelectric alarms may respond a little faster to smoldering fires.  Some alarms incorporate both technologies, and are called dual sensor smoke alarms.

There are alarms that have both a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector in one unit. 

Some alarms have built-in strobe lights (to catch the attention of the hearing-impaired), some can be connected to a vibrating pad or pillow.  Some alarms are connected to an outdoors strobe light to get the attention of a neighbor.  Most of today's alarms have 'hush' buttons or some way to de-activate a nuisance alarm.

And there are alarms with infrared sensors so a tv remote can be used to turn off a nuisance alarm.  Alarms can be powered by batteries, hard-wired into your house's electrical system, or both.

The Alaska Program for Prevention of Fire-related Injuries is funded through a grant by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  Our goal is to install smoke alarms in high-risk Alaskan homes to prevent fire-related deaths and injuries.  We offer installation and follow-up along with fire-safety education.  We usually install photoelectric type of alarms, with 10-year lithium batteries.  This project is carried out by local fire department personnel and other interested community members.