Articles Posted in Smoke Detectors

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Rather than creating traditional landfills, U.S. military personnel have burned tons of trash and human waste while stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But some veterans now believe that their present health problems are the result of breathing in the polluted fumes and smoke that came from those burn pits.

Legislation filed in November in the U.S. Congress would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a registry for veterans who might have been exposed to these burn pits during the wars involving the U.S. between 2001 and 2011. The database would allow the government to collect information on the number of veterans exposed to the burn pits and the types of health problems they are suffering. However, it doesn’t direct the government to provide any particular type of benefits to those veterans.

“Is there a really consistent pattern of a problem, of is it more a coincidence?” said one member of Congress. “We’ve seen anecdotally what appears to be some pretty weird symptoms that just turned up from nowhere” among soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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On October 31 in the Chicago suburbs, a fire at a residential mental health facility early in the morning forced the evacuation of about 400 residents to a village community center, officials said.

A mattress fire, probably caused by cigarette smoking, broke out about 1 a.m. on the sixth floor of the Lydia Healthcare Center, a long-term care center in the south suburb of Robbins, Illinois. The building had to be closed because the fire sprinkler system was activated and the building then had to be cleaned. Most of the damage to the building was caused by smoke and water.

Three residents and one employee were taken to a local hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, but none of the injuries were life-threatening. A representative of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago said they were providing blankets and food for the displaced residents, and that they would be able to go back to the group home within a day or two.

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In Clear Spring, Maryland a few weeks back, an electrical malfunction in a stereo speaker caused a fire that sent a woman to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. The woman was taken to Meritus Medical Center east of Hagerstown.

Authorities said the fire started at 5:46 a.m., when a stereo speaker on a living room shelf in the two-story home caught fire. The fire caused several hundred dollars in damages to the home and its contents. But even with so little damage, the fire required 15 firefighters from the towns of Clear Spring, Halfway, Maugansville, and Williamsport to hose down the house for five minutes to bring the fire under control.

Most importantly, a smoke alarm alerted the occupants of the fire. Without smoke detectors, the fire could have filled the house with hydrogen cyanide-laden smoke so quickly that the occupants would not have gotten out alive–and all because of a stereo speaker malfunction. Remember this story, so that you will make sure to check the batteries in the smoke alarms in your house.

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In late September in the small town of Greenville, NC, a popular local restaurant owner died during a fire inside his house in the middle of the night. The man’s two dogs also died in the fire. Unfortunately, it does not seem that this incident had to end up this way–smoke detectors just might have saved the man’s life.

Derek Oliviero was just 27 years old–young enough to be able to run from the house and avoid severe burns if he had become aware of the fire. But he died of smoke inhalation when his home stared burning because a faulty electrical outlet in the kitchen malfunctioned while he was asleep. Firefighter found the man in the house around 3 a.m. but he was unresponsive. They tried to revive him, but their efforts failed.

Neighbors witnessed the incident. “It took a long time to get him out of the house. It was really scary,” said one of them.

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I was watching TV the other day when, believe it or not, a commercial caught my attention. (It seems that everyone else has a digital recording device, so they can skip the commercials. But I was glad that day that I don’t have DVR, or I would not have seen this informative commercial.)

Anyway, the commercial was for an insurance company that offers coverage for the home. In it, the actors stand in front of a giant ball of lint–the type of lint that comes from washing and drying your clothes–and then one of the actors lights the ball on fire. The ball, which was larger than the actors, becomes engulfed in flames almost instantly. Then one of the actors says, “Did you know that 15,000 fires start in clothes dryers each year?” That’s a pretty big number.

But as I thought about that a bit more, that number became even more terrifying. Why? Because most of the time, a clothes dryer is turned on and left alone for 45 minutes or more, until its timer runs out on its own. So that means that there are thousands of times each year where people go to sleep, or are doing things on the other side of their home, when the dryer is running. And if people are not diligent about cleaning out the lint trap frequently, it is very easy for the dryer to catch fire. What’s more, the lint and the clothes inside the machine will go up in flames in an instant, and possibly engulf the room and the rest of the house before the occupants know what is happening.

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Two deadly fires in the past week are perfect examples of why working smoke detectors are literally life-saving items that every home or apartment should have.

First, a fire in a high-rise apartment building in Philadelphia left two firefighters hospitalized, one in serious condition. The fire department responded to the early-morning blaze at an 18-story Philadelphia Housing Authority building and cleared scores of residents out. Smoke and flames poured from windows on the building’s eighth floor before the fire was doused.

The American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania helped about 150 residents with shelter, clothing, and food. The good news is that the worst outcome for any of the tenants was damage to their apartments and property–but nobody suffered bad smoke inhalation or third-degree burns.

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In a blog post about ten days back, I talked about the need to check your home for potential fire hazards on a regular basis. Red flags that come to mind right away are extension cords on carpets, space heaters too close to furniture or clothing, and candles left to burn for too long at a time.

Of course, almost immediately after posting that blog, I see an example of a fire hazard that most of us would never have thought of: lint in the clothes dryer. On January 26, two residents of Rochester, NY had to go to the hospital and receive oxygen therapy quickly to stave off potentially fatal effects of smoke inhalation–even though they were involved in what the local fire department considered a minor house fire, and had suffered no second- or third-degree burns.

Just after 7 a.m. that day, the clothes dryer caught fire in the basement of the house, probably because its lint trap was overly full. Although the residents noticed the smoke and left the house to call for help, and it took firefighters just 15 minutes to control the fire (which was contained to the basement) the two people told emergency responders that they did not feel well and were taken to the hospital as a precaution. Because smoke rises, the entire house sustained damage from the smoke. What’s more, there were no working smoke detectors inside the house, though local firefighters installed detectors in the house right after the fire, as a courtesy. But if the fire started while the residents were asleep, the lack of smoke detectors could have produced a tragic outcome.

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In one of my posts last week, I mentioned a fatal fire that started because an extension cord had shorted out and set fire to clothes that were laying on top of it. This is a very preventable type of fire–but it can be prevented only when people living in a house or apartment practice good fire safety. The best way to do this: Take two minutes every day to check around your house or apartment for situations that could start a fire, or cause a fire to spread, or block the escape path to a door or window.

Besides this, there is another very simple precaution that people can take. And even though this precaution cannot prevent a fire, it can do something even more important: it can prevent a fire from trapping victims and inflicting terrible third-degree burns and poisonous smoke inhalation. What is that precaution? Installing a minimum of one smoke detector on the ceiling of each level of the house, preferably in the hallway near the bedrooms. It is advisable to put a smoke detector in each bedroom as well.

Sure enough, the blaze that was started by the shorted-out extension cord, which killed a mother and her three children who were asleep at the time, took place in a home that did not have a smoke alarm. So even though the fire began in the living room, in an electrical outlet that was also being used to power a stereo system, a computer, and other appliances, the lack of a smoke detector meant there was too little time to escape once family members woke up and realized there was a fire. The fire had engulfed much of the first floor and created dark, choking smoke that rose up and filled the rooms of the second floor before any of the sleeping victims had a chance to escape. And believe it or not, many victims who die of smoke inhalation are not even awakened by the smell of smoke. Smoke can poison your lungs and cause unconsciousness so quickly that there is no time to wake up!

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Fire claims the lives of many people each year and destroys properties and belongings. Smoke detectors play a big role in preventing fires. They are devices that detect smoke or other combustion products and when they sense them an alarm will sound alerting people for the danger of fire.

There are two types of smoke detectors:

Ionization smoke detectors: this device detects smoke particles emitted from fire whether they are visible or invisible. Smoke changes the electric current which triggers the start of the alarm.