Guest blog by Michael Krupski, Firefighter/EMS Chief of Armor Volunteer Fire Co.
As fire prevention month draws to a close and you prepare to start closing up your home for the winter, it’s always important to take a few minutes to check on the systems in your home that are always looking out for you. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors constantly monitor your home and alert you at the first sign of danger, warning residents to exit a home before it’s too late. However, too often are these systems neglected in the home, and from my experience, it’s partially from a lack of understanding of how these systems need to be maintained, or why they are even there in the first place.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas.
It is produced as a byproduct of incomplete combustion. It can be found in a variety of places, such as your vehicles exhaust, your home heating system, or a variety of other home appliances. In most cases, CO is eliminated in the atmosphere by appropriate ventilation systems and does not pose a threat to your health. However, there are cases where CO may leak into your home and become dangerous. Whether it be an appliance failure, or human error (such as accidently closing your garage door with your vehicle in it, still running), there is always a chance for this deadly gas to build up to lethal levels within a home. Since this gas is odorless and colorless, it is near impossible to detect a buildup of this gas in your home (especially if you are sleeping) before it’s too late. The installation of a CO detector in your home both helps to eliminate this risk and provide you with peace of mind as you go to sleep every night. Just in case that isn’t enough of a reason, it should also be noted that many states, including New York, have adopted a law that requires the installation of CO detectors in your home.
When it comes to the installation of CO detectors and the number required for your home, every home will be different.
In New York State specifically, by law, you must install a CO detector on the lowest floor of your home where a sleeping area is located. Again, the law varies slightly from state to state, so check with your local code enforcement office if you’re unsure of exactly what you need. In my personal opinion, a CO detector should be installed on every floor in your home, regardless if it contains a bedroom or not. Check your packaging when purchasing a CO detector and it will contain an expiration date. The average life for a CO detector is 10 years, but can vary depending on the model you purchase. CO detectors that plug into your wall will have a battery backup in them, and it’s recommended that you change this battery twice a year. Personally, I change all my batteries the same time I switch my clocks for daylight savings time.
Smoke detectors are also vital to your family’s safety in the event of a fire in your home.
While you’re surveying your home to make sure you’re keeping yourself and your family safe from the potential threat of a CO leak, it’s also a great idea to take a look at the current condition of your smoke detectors. In a recent study conducted by the Red Cross, more than 60% of people believe they have at least 5 minutes to escape a home once it starts on fire. That is more than twice as long as the actual amount of time – only two minutes – you have to escape in the event of a house fire. This makes early detection of a fire extremely important to assuring you and your family make it out safely. Smoke detectors should already been installed in your house, as they have been required by law since the 1980’s. Smoke detectors, like CO detectors, should be replaced every 10 years. In the 10 year span that they are in service in your home, they should be tested monthly (most detectors have a “test” button on them), kept free of dust, and batteries changed at least once a year.
If any smoke or CO alarm goes off in your home and you cannot explain why, dial 911 and follow the instructions of the dispatcher.
Firefighters have advanced CO monitors to detect a leak in your home, and technology in the medical field is evolving to the point that an ambulance crew responding to your home may be able to detect the severity of CO exposure you may have been subjected to. CO detectors do malfunction from time to time, and go off when there is no true CO leak in your home. While that may result in the feeling of “I brought the whole fire department out here for nothing” when a detector is going off, every firefighter would agree that they would rather give your home a quick sweep, than respond to a home when it is too late.
If you have further questions about the installation of either CO or smoke detectors in your home, head into your local Valu Home Centers store. If your detectors need to be updated, please consider purchasing a Universal Security CO & Natural Gas Detector. $5 from every unit sold will be donated to The Salvation Army. This year, give the gift that could save a life! See your local Valu for detector model details.
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