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Fire Safety: Not All Smoke Alarms are Alike

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Two-thirds of all fire fatalities happen in homes without a working smoke alarm. Studies prove that the detection devices reduce the risk of injury, death, and property loss and they're becoming more high-tech.

The sound is the same but not all smoke detectors are alike. Ionization alarms detect flaming, fast-moving fires. Photoelectric alarms use lights to sense smoldering, smoky blazes. The National Fire Protection Association recommends you install both, or a dual sensor alarm that combines both kinds of detectors into one unit.

Charlottesville Fire Department Battalion Chief Rich Jones said, "Having the dual sensor gives you double the safety of being alerted and getting out of your home."

Install an alarm in each bedroom, one in the hallway outside the sleeping area, and at least one on each level of your home more than 20 feet away from cooking areas.

Many new homes and apartment buildings have hard-wired smoke detectors hooked to your home's electrical system. Most operate on battery back-up if the power goes out but firefighters say you should also install a second, battery-operated detector nearby.

Jones said, "It does not hurt for you to have as many smoke detectors as you can to alert you and your family."

Jones says test your detector's batteries once a month and replace them twice a year at the time changes and always read the instructions first.

"Smoke detectors include the human element. If they're not properly maintained, clean, and the batteries changed in them, then they're not going to work properly." Jones stated.

Smoke alarms that are 10 years old should be replaced, that includes both battery-operated alarms and ones that are hard-wired.

Many fire departments offer to install free detectors, check with the department in your community. Click here for more information about the different types of alarms.