Smoke Alarm Day, Dec. 1st
will generate discussions about fire safety and encourage people to take responsibility for their own fire safety. Smoke Alarm Day also takes place in other Nordic Countries.
Not only is a smoke alarm is required by law it is also an easy and inexpensive way of keeping property and people safe. In cases of fire in residential buildings in Finland last year, 440 had a non-functioning smoke alarm, and 862 had no smoke alarm at all.
Why have a smoke alarm?
In a fire, the most dangerous element is the smoke that can fill a home in 2–3 minutes. A smoke alarm will detect smoke quickly and alert you, giving you time to get out or maybe put out a small fire and avoid larger damage.
Only a working smoke alarm will save lives. At home, the number of smoke alarms should be adequate, and they should be fitted correctly. They must also be tested regularly and batteries replaced as required. Make a habit of testing your smoke alarms every month and replace the batteries every year – why not on Smoke Alarm Day?
Who buys the smoke alarm?
Residents are responsible for buying a smoke alarm and making sure it is working. Construction regulations require that each new apartment be fitted with individual smoke alarms connected to the mains power supply.
Where to place a smoke alarm?
One smoke alarm is required for every 60 square metres of living space on each level (floor). Our recommendation is to have one smoke alarm on each level in every bedroom and along the exit route. In a multi-level home, you should connect the smoke alarms so that if one detects smoke all alarms will go off.
Remember to fit smoke alarms in other sleeping areas, such as the summer-house, outbuildings, caravans, boats etc. In kitchens and dusty or wet areas smoke alarms may give false alerts so it is best not to install them in such areas.
Fit smoke alarms on the ceiling, at least half a metre from the corners. This way smoke detection is unobstructed. Follow the instructions on the smoke alarm when finding the best place for it in your home.
Testing the smoke alarm
est the smoke alarm regularly, every month and every time you are away from home for more than a few days. Test it by pressing the test button. When the button is pressed the alarm will make a loud noise.
You should test the smoke alarm even if the battery is fresh as a malfunction is always possible. The risk of a smoke alarm malfunction is greater in spaces with no heating such as cottages, caravans and boats.
Smoke alarms give a warning sound when the battery is weak. This beeping sound repeats at one-minute intervals and it is easy to distinguish it from the loud alarm noise. Many smoke alarms have a flashing light that indicates power but the light does not guarantee that the alarm is in working condition. This is why smoke alarms connected to mains power supply should also be tested.
Replace the battery!
In battery-operated smoke alarms the battery should normally be replaced every year. Make a habit of replacing the battery on the same day every year, on Smoke Alarm Day on 1 December, for example.
The easiest way to replace the battery is to buy a separate battery module for the smoke alarm. It can be installed on the wall within easy reach. The battery modules are compatible with most smoke alarms sold in Finland. Many modules also have a test button.
You can also buy a smoke alarm powered by a five or ten year battery.
What types of smoke alarms are available?
Based on how the devices detect smoke they are either ionisation smoke alarms or optical smoke alarms. Ionisation smoke alarms detect smoky air based on electric conductivity. Optical smoke alarms detect visible combustion particles in smoke. Today, most smoke alarms in Finnish homes are battery operated.
Many home security systems with crime protection devices also come with smoke detectors. This equipment is a valid smoke alarm.
Carbon monoxide alarms do not detect smoke but are a useful device in rooms with a fireplace.
When the smoke alarm goes off
You should plan and practise in advance what to do in case of a fire. A fire can start quickly and smoke develops very rapidly. Getting out is the first priority. What exit routes can be used? How will you get small children or grandparents out? Do your children know how to escape if they have caused the fire while playing with matches? Carry out the easy, structured DIY Fire Drill to make sure you know how to maximise your fire safety.
If the fire is very small, you can try to extinguish it with a fire blanket or fire extinguisher. But you should not put yourself at risk.
Outside, everyone should gather in a safe place agreed in advance. Call the emergency number 112 only when you are safe. It is important to guide the fire brigade to the correct location.