Home safety starts with being alerted to potential problems as soon as possible. From carbon monoxide and house fires to burglaries, floods and other accidents, having the right detectors and alarms in place is a simple preventative measure that can save lives. Knowing about the types of detectors, where they should be installed and when to replace them are also key to your family’s safety at home.
Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms
“Fire research has demonstrated that with today’s modern furnishings, fires can spread much more rapidly than in the past when more natural materials were used,” reports the National Fire Protection Association. “Because of this, having a sufficient number of properly located smoke alarms is essential.”
There are two common types of fire alarms. Generally, ionization smoke alarms are more responsive to “flaming fires,” while photoelectric are more responsive to “smoldering fires,” according to the NFPA. Using a combination of both is highly recommended.
Fire alarms should be installed on every level of a home, including in the basement, as well as inside each bedroom and outside every sleeping area. To maintain your smoke detectors, be sure to test your home’s alarms once a month, replace the batteries at least once a year and completely replace them every ten years.
There were 3,704 deaths and 16,600 injuries from fires in 2019, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration, and just over half of these were due to cooking.
Having a smoke detector near the oven is a good idea, but it should be 10 feet away. Otherwise, you could be setting off the alarm every time you accidentally – or purposefully – char your food. Also, don’t put smoke alarms too close to a window or exterior doorway, as potential drafts could throw off its detection.
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Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas sometimes referred to as the “silent killer.” Unlike fire, with its flames, heat and smoky smell, CO is dangerous because it is invisible, odorless and tasteless.
“Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized,” says the CDC.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to those of the flu — dizziness, fatigue, headaches and nausea — and so many people disregard these warning signs. Long-term exposure to CO can lead to chest pain, confusion, irritability, impaired judgment and coordination, loss of consciousness and death.
The elderly and young children are especially susceptible to CO poisoning, as well as anyone with anemia, cardiovascular disease, sickle cell anemia or respiratory conditions.
Carbon monoxide is produced by many fuel-burning household appliances, like water heaters, furnaces or boilers, gas and wood-burning fireplaces and stoves. Other kinds of CO-emitting appliances, that can be hazardous if you use them indoors or too close to your home, include generators, grills, lawn equipment and power tools.
Since carbon monoxide is undetectable to our senses, CO sensors are absolutely necessary for home safety. You’ll want two to three carbon monoxide detectors in an average-sized home – more if your home is larger. Place detectors near heat-producing appliances, and replace them every five years. To make sure your detector is working efficiently, change its batteries once or twice a year.
To be safe, all fuel-burning appliances should vent outside. You should also have your heating system serviced once a year to make sure everything is working properly.
Flood sensors can detect unusual levels of moisture, helping to protect your home from potential water damage. Not only is water damage costly – flooding ruins carpet, furniture, electronics, etc. – it can also lead to mold.
If you live in an area that experiences flooding and/or heavy rains, a flood sensor can monitor places prone to water damage, like attics, basements and crawlspaces, and warn you about water seeping into your home.
If you live in a drier area, you may still want to consider flood sensors for potential indoor incidents, such as burst pipes during freezing temperatures, a leaking sink or washing machine, plumbing issues, etc.
“Just 1 inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your home,” according to FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. However, standard home insurance policies don’t protect against flood damage. If you are concerned about flooding, you should consider purchasing a separate flood insurance policy. Reach out to a AAA insurance agent to learn more.
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Motion sensors are an important part of protecting your loved ones, your home and your valuables. Today’s security systems are capable of monitoring in real-time who’s ringing the doorbell, entering your home or even going into a specific room. Some systems even send notifications straight to your phone.
Motion detectors are great for combating burglaries. There are many types of motion detectors to choose from to fit your home and your needs. Some basics include passive infrared, microwave and video motion detectors as well as dual technology motion sensors that combine different methods of monitoring.
Passive infrared, which detects body heat, is one of the most common. MW detectors send out pulses, and can cover more space than passive infrared, but they have issues with electrical interference and can be more expensive. Meanwhile, modern video motion detectors won’t waste storage by recording 24/7 and instead only record when signaled.
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Pets are notorious for setting off motion alarms, but detectors that go by weight or are placed above your pet’s height are less likely to give false alarms.
Detecting potential risks as soon as possible by using a variety of home safety detectors can help protect your family, pets and assets. Plus, most insurance companies provide a discount on homeowners insurance if there is a centrally monitored security system, which typically includes motion sensors and smoke detectors.
Looking for more ways to make your home safer? AAA members can save on a new SimpliSafe home security system, get a FREE SimpliCam and more.
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