On Sunday, Nov. 4, as clocks are changed back to Pacific Standard Time, it is also a good time to change the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Most smoke alarms contain a battery, and this year marks the 25th year that the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has promoted the annual program.
In all homes built in Las Vegas since 1994, fire codes require that smoke alarms must be wired into the home’s electric supply with a nine volt battery as backup power source. In homes built prior to 1994 the smoke alarm may be wired in without a battery or it may be a battery only operated smoke alarm. In either case, if it has a battery, it should be replaced.
Another concern regarding smoke alarms is that they have a life span of approximately 10 years. The alarms detect smoke using a small particle of radioactive material (similar to a watch that glows in the dark). The particle decays over a period of time, and may not detect smoke as well.
It is suggested that the smoke alarm be replaced after 10 years with a new duel-sensor IONIZATION/PHOTOELECTRIC smoke alarm.
Current smoke alarms used are of the ionization type. Basically they smell the air for smoke and when they detect smoke, they sound an alarm. But tests have shown that they work best for fast burning, hot fires such as a kitchen or rubbish fire. Slower burning, cooler fires that smolder instead of producing large flames sometimes go undetected by the ionization smoke alarm. The photoelectric smoke alarm uses a light sensor built in the unit that detects visible smoke. When smoke disrupts the light beam in the unit, it activates the alarm. The combination ionization/photoelectric smoke alarm offers twice the protection by detecting visible smoke as well as picking up the scent of the smoke.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs now recommends combination ionization/photoelectric smoke alarms. If a resident cannot afford a smoke alarm for their home, they should contact Las Vegas Fire & Rescue (702-383-2888) to obtain a free smoke alarm.