Detectors Causing Harm
People around the world live in a very dangerous, harmful world with many things that can go wrong. One of the most dangerous things people have that are potentially dangerous is smoke detectors. Detectors, whether it is for smoke, heat, or carbon monoxide, go unnoticed every day and are not even thought to be harmful or potentially dangerous. The beeping pieces of plastic on your ceiling could turn into a hazard if not cared for or thought about daily. Detectors do have many benefits if properly used, and can save many lives annually. But detectors do have dangers that it is trying to prevent. They have the risk of not alerting when there is a threat of fire or smoke, or could start a fire itself.
It may seem like these detectors are a benefit, considering fire departments and fire protection agencies hand them out. But the risk starts if the installation of the product is not efficient and installed properly. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s “Considerations For Installation Of Smoke Alarms On Residential Branch Circuits,” the proper installation of a detector is essential in order to decrease the risk of fires starting from detectors. Shortages, overheating wires and overloaded circuits can start a fire at any time if the installation is not done correctly. Wires overheating due to excess current in the detector is one of the main issues that does cause electrical fires.
As the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also states, there are some techniques being used to cut down electrical fires. Fuses are now being put in place so if overheating does occur, a fuse will be set off, not allowing any more current to go through the circuit. Overheating would be hard to catch, but a small fuse does make it easier to prevent any fires from starting from your detectors.
Short circuits are a common cause of fires, which a detector can do. According to Elizabeth McGrath’s “What Causes Short Circuits,” a short circuit occurs when part of a wire carrying current touches another wire or part of the circuit and gives the electricity a path of less resistance. For example, if a wire with faulty insulation becomes exposed and touches a metal light switch, current can flow along the light switch and result in a shock. Short circuits will produce more heat in a circuit and result in burns and electrical fires.
Something else that can actually cause a fire is the batteries used to power the detectors. But in many incidences, an ordinary item that may be found in your “junk drawer” may have a higher risk of catching fire than you think. Fire Protection Team writes that if a metal object touches the posts of the batteries, the battery may short circuit, which creates enough heat to start a fire. There have been reports of this across the country of these batteries actually starting a fire, and enough that homeowners are launching a campaign to provide awareness of this unexpected hazard.
But new technology creates a better way to prevent this also. McGrath states that a short circuit will cause your household breaker to trip, allowing you to see something was shorted out. But there are still some risks and dangers even with this technology and advancing improvements. Internal shortages can happen within your ceiling, which is harder to spot and can lead to a fire if it is not noticed fast enough.
This one terrifying event proves detectors are not “fireproof” even if the best plan is used. Chris Brooke from the Daily Mail reports that in 2011 in Humberside, England, the national fire service conducted a nationwide fire prevention campaign to reduce home fires. Of all competing competitors, the trusted Fire Angel ST 620 detector was supplied because of its “ground-breaking” smoke detection technology and its 10-year power pack. It was also supplied because of its quality and reliability to fire and rescue services for this campaign. This detector is now on alert after one caught fire in a home after ideal and professional installation. Despite the high quality and reliability of the detector, this fired occurred after the low battery chirp sounded, then spontaneously bursting into flames. Mrs. Gray, the homeowner said if her daughter Victoria not been at home to quell the flames, or worse, had she been sleeping in the house, a much worse tragedy might have occurred. The installation campaign has been suspended, which is no comfort to the fire professionals, who know full well how precarious are the homes they haven’t served, with their cheaper, less reliable detectors, poorly located, amateurishly installed by inexperienced homeowners. Chris Blacksell, Humberside’s Director of Safety, was forced to admit: “We have contacted every fire service in the country to find out if there have been any other incidents involving detectors [and] have decided to not fit that type of detector until our investigation is complete.”
Poor maintenance and upkeep of detectors can be a major role in your family’s fire safety. What some do not know is that even hardwired detectors have a battery which is used for backup purposes. If electricity is lost in your household and that backup battery is dead, there will be no way of knowing if there is smoke in your house or not.
A deadly example of this is in an article written by Bruce Krasnow, titled “Fire Starts During Annual Smoke Detector Warning…,” which states that a fire started in a house that did not have smoke detectors at all. If there had been any smoke detectors installed, the lives of four children would not have been lost. Fire investigators said that the fire was smoldering long before it ignited, and if a detector was present, the four children would have been alerted and would have been able to get out safely. It is a tragic story that did not need to happen if a smoke detector was properly installed in the home.
This seems strange to think about. No one would think that a device used to alert individuals that there is fire, could be the reason the fire starts in the first place. As a firefighter, I would not think this at all because of the positives I see, and what many others see also. We all see that blinking red light and hear that loud beep, but never do think about if it is doing more bad than good.
Brooke, C. (2011, November 08). Fire services on alert after smoke detector is blamed for causing TWO blazes. Retrieved February 13, 2018 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2058922/Firefighters-forced-stop-handing-smoke-alarms-catches-alight-nearly-burns-house.html
Krasnow, B. S. w. (1995, October 29). FIRE STARTS DURING ANNUAL SMOKE DETECTOR WARNING OFFICIALS URGE PEOPLE TO CHECK BATTERIES WHILE CHANGING CLOCKS. Retrieved February 13, 2018 from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.rowan.edu/docview/394791605/abstract/4BF70D91880C41AFPQ/1?accountid=13605
Lee, A., & Lee, D. (2005, October). Considerations For Installation Of Smoke Alarms On Residential Branch Circuits. Retrieved February 13, 2018 from https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/acfismoke.pdf
McGrath, E. (2017, July 11). What Causes Short Circuits?. Retrieved February 13, 2018 from https://www.thespruce.com/what-causes-short-circuits-4118973
Nichols, B. (2014, June 30). How 9-Volt Batteries Can be a Home Hazard. Retrieved February 13, 2018 from http://fireprotectiontesting.com/dangers-of-9-volt-batteries/