Community Development, MS-36  
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Home Fire Protection

We all want our families and loves ones to be safe and would spend any amount of money to ensure their safety. The fact is the most important steps to take cost very little.

Smoke Alarms
A smoke alarm can give an early warning of a fire, increasing your chance of escape and survival by 50 percent. Smoke alarms usually cost between $10 - $20 and are available in hardware or department stores. Smoke alarms should be installed in each sleeping area and on each level of the home. Be sure to check your smoke alarm batteries monthly and replace them at least once a year. There are two types of smoke alarms: ionization and photoelectric. Both types are UL approved and have close activation times.

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Ionization smoke alarms monitor "ions" or electrically charged particles. Smoke particles change the electrical balance of the air. The alarm will sound when the change in the electrical balance reaches a preset level.

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Photo-electrics use a beam of light and a light sensor. Smoke particles change the amount of light that reaches the sensor causing the alarm to sound.

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Heat detectors are best used over hazards where flaming fires could be expected such as a garage or utility area. Heat detectors have a slower response than smoke detectors, according to the National Fire Protection Association, because heat generated by small fires tends to dissipate fairly rapidly.

Residential Sprinkler Systems
Residential sprinkler systems are designed for life safety and are your best line of defense in a fire. A residential sprinkler system and smoke alarms together cut your risk of dying in a fire by 82 percent. Sprinkler heads act quickly while the fire is still small. When a sprinkler head reaches 165 degrees, a single head activates. Just one sprinkler head will control or extinguish the fire 90 percent of the time. Sprinklers are inexpensive to install in new and existing buildings and cost approximately $1.50 per square foot. They reduce the damage caused by the fire by 90 percent and minimize water damage during fire suppression.

Home Escape Plan
Making and practicing a home escape plan is an important step. The plan should include two ways out of each room, knowing to crawl low under smoke, a designated meeting place, and a call from a neighbor's home to 911. Early notification to 911 is critical. A fire can double in size every minute. Early warning, escape and calling 911 are absolutely essential.

Knowing what to do to save life and property in the event of fire may be the most important protection you can provide to your loved ones. A balanced home fire protection plan should include installing and maintaining smoke alarms, making and practicing a home escape plan, and calling 911. Remember, a residential sprinkler system offers the highest level of fire protection available.

For more information about home fire protection devices, contact your local fire department or call the Kitsap County Fire Marshal at (360) 337-5777.

Last Updated:  September 23, 2014
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