How Does Your Smoke Detector Work?

Have you ever looked up at your smoke alarm and thought, “I wonder how that works?” Well the simple answer is, “With cunning ingenuity”. The first thing to understand is that there are two basic smoke alarm designs. The first and the most commonly used design is nuclear powered and is known as an ionization smoke detector, these require little space are cheap and are more common than the other type of detector, which is the photoelectric smoke detector.

 

Ionization Smoke Alarms

At the heart of an ionization smoke detector is a small amount of radioactive material called Americium 241, along with two plates with opposite electrical polarity. This sensor arrangement is held in an air flowing metal chamber and along with its support electronics is powered by a long life battery, usually 9-volt. The metal chamber acts as the negative plate; a positive plate covers the Americium 241.

So how does an ionization smoke alarm work? Well, alpha particles are generated by the Americium element, these alpha particles ionize the nitrogen and oxygen atoms that circulate through the smoke detector. This simply means that electrons are stripped from both the nitrogen and oxygen elements, when this happens the “air” inside the smoke detector becomes positively charged. These “air” atoms are drawn to the negative (metal chamber) plate, while the negatively charged electrons are drawn to the positive plate. As long as this process continues the smoke alarm will not activate. However, when smoke enters the device it interferes with the ionization process and the alarm is triggered. Ionization smoke alarm detectors are considered sensitive enough to do their job correctly and robust enough to last several years under normal operating conditions.

 

Should you worry about Americium 241?

Being radioactive does mean that it produces radiation, however the amount is very small. Moreover, the type of radiation emitted is in the form of alpha particles, which are the weakest type of radiation. A sheet of paper can stop alpha particles. The metal canister that holds the Americium is more that capable of containing any harmful radiation. You should however make sure that any discarded ionization detectors are properly disposed of, check with your local authority or council to find out the preferred method in your area.

 

Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

These are probably the least popular type of smoke detector; this is down to the fact that they’re not as sensitive as an ionization detector. They function by employing two channels; one emits light, while the other channel detects the light. If smoke finds it way into the channels it will interfere with the light and trigger the alarm.

The type of smoke alarm you choose really depends on the application. While ionization detectors are seen as the preferred choice, they perform best in detecting fast flaming fires with small smoke particles. Optical sensor smoke alarms on the other hand perform best at detecting slow, smoldering fires with large particles. It’s recommended that you fit a combination of the two types of smoke alarm to your home, preferably interconnected. It’s possible to string together several smoke detectors to form an impressive smoke alert system.

When a fire damages your home or business, expert fire damage restoration is required to get fully restore your property to pre-loss condition and ensure the safety of future occupants. Regency Disaster Response Team is a leading fire damage restoration company and has experience cleaning and restoring all sizes and types of fire disasters.

Call Now For Immediate Emergency Help – Our Fire & Smoke Damage Restoration Experts Are Standing By To Serve You!

(888) 221-5791

Top 10: Worst Fires in History

Fire is a terrifying force, even on the smallest of scales. When it gets out of control, it can ravage thousands and thousands of acres. Stories of out-of-control fires, and the courage and sacrifice they’ve inspired, provide a humbling glimpse into the power of nature.

10. The Great Fire Of Meireki

According to the story, in January 1657, Edo (modern-day Tokyo) was plagued with tuberculosis. A particular kimono seemed to be spreading the disease, as three successive owners died from TB after wearing it. On January 18, a Buddhist monk set the garment on fire. A gust of wind snatched it away, and it set the temple roof ablaze. The fire was said to have spread from there, giving the fire its other name-the “long-sleeved kimono fire”

When the fire was finally extinguished two days later, around 60 percent of the city was gone, and the death toll was estimated to be as high as 100,000, around a third of the city’s population at the time. Edo was transformed radically after the fire, doubling in size and laid out under new guidelines to prevent future fires.

9. The Great Porcupine Fire

The Great Porcupine Fire swept through Northeastern Ontario in July 1911, at the height of a local gold rush, and was so named because many people took shelter from the wildfire by retreating to boats on Porcupine Lake. The fire burned out nearly 500,000 acres of forest, along with numerous towns and mining camps. The death toll is unknown.

The survivors who Took refuge on the lake have recounted some harrowing tales, including the story of a woman who gave birth while trapped on the boats. The nearby Salvation Creek got its name when it saved the lives of a group of miners, but others were less fortunate. When railcars of dynamite exploded, shock waves sent across the water caused a number of people to drown.

One mine boss took his 22 employees, his wife, and his daughter into the West Dome Mines. They suffocated when the fire engulfed the entrance.

8. Thumb Fires

Wildfires destroyed huge parts of Michigan’s “thumb” in 1871 and 1881. During the first fire, many people couldn’t even make it out of their homes, and many of those who did make it to the shores of Lake Huron were drowned in the choppy lake waters. Others tried to shelter in wells, and many died there.

The 1871 fire laid the groundwork for the Great Thumb Fire of 1881 by drying out the wood that didn’t burn. At least 300 people died in the fire, and 14,000 were made destitute and homeless. Some were permanently blinded by the heat and ash, but at least one man survived thanks to a bizarre stroke of luck: He had been out hunting and had killed an elk. He managed to gut the creature, crawl inside, and escape the worst of the blaze.

The fire also precipitated the first large-scale disaster relief effort organized by the American Red Cross.

7. Delft Thunderclap

On October 12, 1654, Cornelis Soeens walked into a gunpowder storehouse in the middle of the Dutch city of Delft. Moments later, around 40,000 kilograms (90,000 lb) of gunpowder exploded. No one knows exactly what happened, but some sources suggest the inspector was, rather unwisely, carrying a lantern.

The explosion-and the following fires-destroyed about a quarter of the city. Around 100 people were confirmed dead (with the actual death toll unknown), and thousands were injured. Fires consumed many of the wooden homes that managed to survive the initial blast. Protestant preachers took the tragedy as a sign that the End Times had been finally brought, instigated by the rise of the Catholics.

The explosion claimed the life of Carel Fabritius, a student of Rembrandt. Bizarrely, one of the survivors was a baby, rescued an entire day after the explosion. She was still sitting in her high chair, still giggling, and still holding an apple.

6. Black Thursday

Brush fires are common in Australia, but in 1851, the high temperatures, dry months, and the high gum resin content of the native plants meant that the Outback was a powder keg just waiting to go off. The culmination was on Black Thursday (February 6), when smoke from the fires blacked out the entire sky.

Newspapers later reported that it wasn’t only fires that swept across Australia, but also clouds of air filled with heat, fire, and suffocating sand. TheArgus Newspaper painted the horrible picture of men, women, and children trying to run on horseback, unable to stay ahead of the inferno. Areas that weren’t destroyed by fire were still subjected to stifling heat and smoke, trapping countless people indoors to watch and hope the winds didn’t change.

The heat continued throughout the rest of the month. Watering holes, creeks, and rivers were completely gone.

5. Cloquet Fir

The 1918 Cloquet Fire lasted for only about 15 hours, but it killed hundreds of people and consumed around 1,500 square miles  of Minnesota forest. It was more accurately a series of around 50 separate fires caused by a combination of wind, dry weather, dry lumber and wood waste from the area’s timber industry, and sparks from the area’s trains.

The fire smoldered for a while before the devastation really started, so the residents of Cloquet had enough warning to escape the worst of the blaze. More than 7,000 people were shuttled to safety by some of the same trains that started the fire.

By the time the fire reached Duluth, escape was down to luck, an idea illustrated by a terrifying comparison: If the world’s fastest sprinter was given a 90-meter (300 ft) head start, he would be engulfed in flames in 30 seconds. Some survivors drove their cars into Moose Lake and waited underwater. One schoolteacher survived by retreating to a lakeside pier and dousing the wood with water to keep it from burning.

4. Peshtigo Fire

A series of five major fires broke out in the Great Lakes region on October 8, 1871. The most famous is the Chicago Fire, but the deadliest was the Peshtigo Fire. More than 1.5 million acres were consumed (more than twice the area of Rhode Island), smoke was seen from Baltimore, and between 1,200 and 2,400 people were killed. Peshtigo itself was destroyed in a single hour.

Survivors described the fire moving like a tornado. Some tried to flee on foot and burst into flames as they ran. Others tried to take shelter in nearby water, where some died from hypothermia. Others, thinking that it was a tornado, headed into their cellars and basements, where they succumbed to the heat. Bodies were still being found years later.

3. The Great Fire Of Smyrna

The most widely accepted date for the beginning of the fire that destroyed all of Smyrna is September 13, 1922. The fire burned for nine days and forced around 400,000 Greek and Armenian citizens from their homes. Although Turkey still denies it, most historians agree that the fire was part of the genocide during the Greco-Turkish War. As the fires burned, the Turkish army continued their march through the city, killing as they went

It was against that backdrop that the most unlikely of heroes stepped up: Asa Jennings was a failed minister from Upstate New York who had taken a position with the Smyrna YMCA. When confronted with hundreds of thousands of citizens huddled along the coastline, Jennings, with the help of the US Navy’s Lieutenant Commander Halsey Powell, started securing ships to ferry the refugees to safety. The men are credited with saving around 250,000 lives and their story was largely buried in the denial and finger-pointing that followed.

2. The Big Burn

Firefighter Joe Halm later described what happened on August 20, 1910, at his camp along Idaho’s St. Joe River: He remembered hearing something in the distance, likening it to a distant waterfall or windstorm. The sound was coming from overhead on wind that was rustling the treetops ever so slightly.

It was a wall of fire.

Halm and his crew of firefighters retreated to a creek, salvaging only some buckets of water. Miraculously, they were able to hold their ground as the forest around them burned.

They were experiencing part of the Big Burn (also called the Big Blowout or the Great Fire of 1910), which destroyed a huge part of Idaho and Montana during the final days of an incredibly dry summer. Around three million acres were consumed by flames that sometimes raced through the forest canopy before descending to the ground. The fires resulted in renewed funding for the US Forest Service.

1. The Great Hinckley Fire

In 1894, the Brennan Lumber Company churned out around 60,000 meters (200,000 ft) of board lumber every day. The dry wood, coupled with the sawdust and waste, was disaster just waiting for a spark. The spark happened on September 1, and by the time smaller fires joined up to converge on Hinckley-and the lumber company-they were already burning from the east, south, and the west. Flames rose 60 meters (200 ft) high, and more than 400 people died. Some of them would not be found until 1898.

While some waited the fire out in the middle of potato fields or headed to the Grindstone River, trains shuttled survivors out of the burning city. As people fled in droves and appealed to the surrounding towns for help, the St. Paul and Duluth Depot’s telegraph officer, Tommy Dunn, continued to man the office and monitor communications. His last message was, “I think I’ve stayed too long.” He died in the blaze.

Fire Prevention Safety Tips

While a water damage occurring in your home from a rain or windstorm, a broken pipe or perhaps an overflowing sink or toilet is a terrible event to experience, virtually nothing is as devastating as a fire. And while statistics indicate a downward trend in house fires, mainly because of better, modern safety protocols, it is still a huge issue that must be addressed. For example, in 2013 there were more than 1,200,000 home fires, nearly 3,500 deaths and 16,000 injuries reported by the National Fire Protection Association. More than half of home fires start in one of your favorite places: The kitchen. That’s right. Cooking is an everyday occurrence and it is the number one cause of fires. Usually on the stove. Other causes include candles, Christmas trees, overburdened electrical cords/outlets, appliance malfunctions and cigarettes or cigars, to name just a few. What can you do to make things safe in your home and protect your family?
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How Harmful is Soot on Appliances, Countertops, Walls, and Other Surfaces After a Fire?

   

How Harmful is Soot on Appliances, Countertops, Walls, and Other Surfaces After a Fire?

Once a fire has been put out, you may feel that you are in the clear. This isn’t necessarily the case; while extinguishing a fire does indeed remove a clear and present danger to your home and your family, it leaves behind smoke damage, ash, and soot, all of which can cause long term damage on their own. 

Soot is residue from burned materials, which includes fuels, wood, and more. In large deposits, such as within a chimney place, it can even re-ignite. The type of soot that you’ll be dealing with will be less concentrated, but no less of a hazard. Inhaling soot can lead to cardiovascular problems in people of any age or level of health.

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Fire Damage Restoration Tips

Fire damage is devastating to a home and its occupants. Once the flames are out, there will be a lot of things you’ll need to do as the homeowner to minimize the damage to your personal belongings and start the restoration process.  Here are a few tips to help you get started getting your home back in order.

You should not enter the property until the fire department confirms that the fire is out and it is safe to go inside.  Embers can smolder for days and rekindle if not properly extinguished. When it is safe to return, grab any important documents such as birth certificates, insurance papers and mortgage information.   Be sure to take any medications you will need and any valuables you can carry. Anything in a fireproof safe will probably be fine.

The next step is to call a certified fire restoration company, such as our company, for clean up and restorative services. There will be lingering smoke and soot on everything and you may want to stay in a hotel for the duration of the cleanup.  You will most likely not be allowed inside during the restoration process due to the environmental safety risks associated with smoke inhalation and chemical exposure. The cleanup crew will be wearing protective clothing and masks to protect them while they are working.

Important Tips:

  • Do not use any electrical appliances
  • Do not turn on any lights, use a flashlight [electrical wiring could be damaged]
  • Do not attempt to clean anything
  • Do not turn on your furnace or heat source
  • Open windows for ventilation to get smoke out of the house
  • Remove animals from the house [they are affected by smoke inhalation also]
  • Limit the number of people going in and out of the home to avoid tracking soot
  • Call a plumber or HVAC Technician to turn off the gas and drain the water heater.

Contact Regency Disaster Response Team immediately if you have been the victim of fire damage.  Our staff is available 24/7 to respond to emergencies. We know that time is very important and will there within minutes of your call securing everything for your safety and to contain the mess.

The Dangers of Soot

It doesn’t seem that dangerous. It’s just the byproduct of a fire… maybe from a chimney, a furnace puff-back, even an over-zealous gas grill. When the fire is out, you should be able to clean up the soot residue easily, right? Not so fast! Soot has some characteristics that everyone should consider before attempting to clean. Those who perform fire damage work understand the dangers of soot. So do emergency personnel like firemen. In fact, outdoor soot is regulated by the EPA, classified as a criteria pollutant. Consider these facts about soot.
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