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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Tips for Recognizing a Smoke Detector False Alarm in Order to Avoid Fire Damage

3/9/2022 (Permalink)

Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Palo Alto offers seven tips on how to diagnose a smoke detector false alarm.

Fire damage restoration involves more than repairing a structure and items damaged by flames. Smoke damage and often extensive water damage occur. A kitchen fire can spread toxic smoke and soot throughout a home. If the fire department uses water to extinguish the flames, the resulting water damage could be extensive. Smoke detectors save lives and limit the scope of property damage by giving homeowners the advance warning they need to deal with a dangerous situation. Early detection and swift action can avoid the need to discharge a fire extinguisher or dump large amounts of water onto an out-of-control fire in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, or garage.

The piercing shrill from a smoke detector can be both annoying and unnerving. The purpose of the loud noise is to alert the occupants to potential danger and move them to take immediate action to identify the source of the smoke and quickly and safely resolve the situation.

If a smoke detector often activates randomly and without any discernible cause, the occupants in the home, apartment, or business are quickly desensitized to the noise and less prone to search out any impending dangers that might be causing the safety device to send out its siren call to take action. De-sensitization to the fire alarm can have fatal consequences.

Smoke detectors are the first line of defense in keeping the family, pets, and home safe from the ravages of a smoke and fire damage disaster. Each activation of the alarm demands the full attention of the occupants of the home or business, even if smoke is not seen or smelled. Sometimes smoke detectors sound off when they should not, and sometimes they fail to respond to the presence of smoke in the air. False alarms may occur with an alarming frequency.

Modern smoke detectors utilize advanced sensing technology to detect the presence of smoke in the air. The advanced warning achieved by the technology saves lives every day. If a smoke detector sounds an alarm, trust the integrity, sensitivity, and accuracy of the device, and respond accordingly. Follow all safety protocols. The number one priority is always survival.

To help Redwood City, CA, homeowners, property managers, and business owners better understand how smoke detectors perform their life-saving task, SERVPRO of Palo Alto is outlining seven common causes of smoke detector false alarms.

1. The fireplace or wood stove

The fireplace can sometimes cause the smoke detector to activate. A high soot content or an improper damper setting can cause a false alarm. A competent, reputable chimney sweep can diagnose and solve the problem.

2. Crawley critters

Small insects may find a home in a smoke detector and set off the alarm. If the cause of the alarm activation is not evident, then inspect the device for small insects, their droppings, or other signs that unwanted guests are hiding in the smoke detector. Apply an eco-friendly pesticide around the alarm to keep critters out.

3. Burnt or singed food in the kitchen

Most house fires start in the kitchen. An unsupervised dish cooking on the stove can easily scorch, failing to ignite a raging fire but still giving off enough smoke to set off the smoke alarm. Burnt toast in the toaster or popcorn overcooked in the microwave can have the same effect. To minimize false alarms, avoid installing a smoke detector in the kitchen; instead, place the device in an adjacent hallway or room.

4. Dirt, dust, or grime

Dust accumulation can set off a smoke alarm. Inspect the inside of the detector and remove any dust or dirt with a vacuum attachment or an electronic aerosol cleaner.

5. Steam and high humidity

In some situations, a smoke detector may not be able to distinguish between smoke particles and moisture droplets from high humidity or steam. Remove the excess moisture with fans or by opening a window. Turn on the exhaust fan in the bathroom to prevent steam from a hot shower or bath from triggering a nearby smoke detector.

6. Chemical vapors

Some paints and harsh chemicals can activate smoke detectors. Be sure to ventilate areas where these chemicals are in use.

7. Smoke detector malfunctions

Low batteries or bad battery connections may cause a unit to give off a chirping alert. Though not a false alarm, the sound is an annoying but essential reminder to inspect the device. Be sure to change the batteries twice a year. January 1 and the Fourth of July are suggested dates.

Aging smoke alarms can activate randomly for no apparent reason.  To be on the safe side, replace any unit that reaches the ten-year mark. The advances in technology over the previous ten years will be worth the investment.

In case of fire damage in a residential or commercial setting SERVPRO of Palo Alto is available 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, to help regain control of the situation quickly and begin the restoration process. Quick response and rapid remediation minimize the disruption, enabling homeowners and businesses to recover more quickly.

To learn more about fire damage cleanup in Redwood City, CA, email SERVPRO of Palo Alto at office@SERVPROpaloalto.com. The team can also be reached by calling (650) 800-3448.

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