January 31, 2023


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Smoke alarms: This is not the way to do it!

Smoke alarms: This is not the way to do it!

– The mistake we’re seeing unfortunately happen again is that people put a smoke detector on top of the cupboard. And there it stays. It is actually surprisingly common.

This is what security consultant Magnus Larsen says in the Alert sector. He has been to a number of homes to install fire and burglar alarms, and has seen several typical mistakes most people make with smoke alarms.

Still lying down

Now there probably aren’t many people who think smoke detectors are meant to be placed on top of cupboards.

Most people have some kind of plan to fix it. But then you might be reluctant to drill into the concrete ceiling, or install something in the freshly painted surfaces. Surprisingly, many also allowed beauty to weigh them down. They simply don’t want the alarm on the ceiling because they don’t think it looks nice. Then they put it on top of the dresser as a kind of compromise, says Larsen.

Unfortunately, a smoke detector on top of a tall cabinet will work much worse than one on the ceiling. The fact that it was left the wrong way can affect the job. In addition, it takes longer for smoke and heat particles to reach the top of the cabinet than outside in an empty space.

Not in the corner!

– I’ve also seen smoke alarms installed in the inner corner of a room, not visible as far as possible, or projected sideways to the wall. Even inside the closet. Unfortunately, none of these solutions are particularly favorable, Larsen says.

So how should this actually be done?

in Regulations on Fire Prevention Measures, §7, That’s what you say Homeowners and vacation homes should ensure that the buildings have fire alarm systems or a sufficient number of smoke detectors. There should be at least one smoke detector or alarm on each floor, which should cover the kitchen, living room and the area outside the rooms. Sleeping and area outside technical rooms. The alarm should be clearly audible in the living room and bedroom when the doors between rooms are closed.”

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overall assessment

Larsen says that when he and his colleagues at the alarm company install detectors, they do a thorough assessment of the home.

The minimum requirement of one alarm per floor is in most cases just the beginning.

When the living room and kitchen are covered, as well as the technical room, you should look at the rest of the house.

– We recommend that each bedroom have its own alarm connected in series with the rest of the system, so that if triggered, everyone will wake up. Plus, if I lived in a house with a basement and had, say, a refrigerator in the basement, I’d have a smoke detector in there, says Larsen. He adds that if you have a separate laundry room, it should also be equipped with an alarm.

The washer/dryer is the worst appliance

The washer/dryer tops the stats for the type of electrical appliances in the home that most often start fires, it turns out Figures from the Directorate of Social Security and Emergency Preparedness (DSB).

Correct: in pitched ceilings, the smoke detector should not be installed at the top, but slightly down from the highest point.

On inclined roofs, fire detectors must be installed at a distance from the highest point. In flat ceilings, detectors should be installed at a good distance from the walls.

You should not have smoke detectors in the bathroom, because there is often hot steam that will disturb the detector. In this case, the smoke detector should instead be installed slightly outside the room.

Difference between optical and ionic

Most of the older smoke detectors are ionic, while what now dominates the market are optical detectors.

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If you have older, older-type smoke detectors, there are good reasons to replace them with optical series-connected detectors: Optical smoke detectors “see” particles that develop in smoldering fires and slowly developing fires. On the other hand, ionic reacts with gas molecules in the air from high-energy fires.

In homes, smoldering fires and low-energy fires from electrical equipment are more common. This is why you should have smoke detectors that give notice of exactly this type of fire in homes.

If you don’t know what you have, lower the detector and look behind it. Ionic smoke detectors often have a radioactive symbol on the back, while optical detectors should be marked “Optical Smoke Detector”.

Extra security

If you have fire detectors connected to an alarm center or security company, you have extra security.

– We now have equipment that takes pictures of the room when the fire alarm goes off. Then people in the control center can analyze it quickly, and if we see flames, we call the fire service immediately, Larsen says.


Correct placement of smoke detectors

  • Smoke detectors must be installed at the highest point of the ceiling and at least half a meter away from the wall.
  • Place at least one smoke detector on each floor.
  • In homes with multiple floors, you should place smoke detectors closer to stairwells, so that the sound of the alarm travels more easily across the floors.

(source: Sikkerhverdag.no)

Do you want to replace the batteries?

December 1st was for many years the date we were reminded to change the batteries in our smoke detector. For older type detectors this may still be relevant.

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But many modern smoke detectors are equipped with a battery that cannot be replaced. This is because the battery lasts the life of the alarm (which is usually 10 years). When the battery is dead, the other components are also too old for the alarm to not work as it should, and the whole alarm has to be changed.

In any case, you should use this time of year to verify that your warning device is working properly and adequately for your home.


Smoke detectors save lives

  • From 2000 to 2021, 1,174 people died in fires in Norway.
  • Since the DSB began recording fire deaths in 1979, an average of 61 people have died each year.
  • More than 80 percent of all fire fatalities died in home fires. After smoke detectors became mandatory in 1991, the number of people dying in house fires decreased.

(source: Fire Protection Association)

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