Welcome to Emergency Essentials!

Catalog Request

burn week

  • Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms: What's the Difference?

     Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms: What's the Difference?

    Surprisingly, the terms “Smoke Detector” and “Fire Alarm” aren’t interchangeable. Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms actually have different functions and may be better suited for one environment over another. For example, a smoke detector may be better for a home while a fire alarm may be better for a business or school.

    According to the National Fire Protection Agency, almost two-thirds of home fire related deaths were caused because families did not have a “fire alert system” in their home or if they did, they were not in working order. So it’s important to select a “fire alert system” that will fulfill your individual needs and  help keep you safe in an emergency.

    Let’s talk about the differences between smoke detectors and fire alarms and how you can select and maintain each system in your home.

    Smoke Detectors (aka Smoke Alarms)

    A smoke detector is a smoke sensing device that sounds an alarm when an abundance of smoke particles are in the air. Some smoke alarms even come with flashing lights for those with hearing impairments. Smoke detectors can work as either an independent unit or a connected system throughout a home or building.

    If you’re wired independently, one smoke detector will sound in a given area of your home. But as a connected system, if one smoke alarm sounds in, say, your bedroom, the rest of the smoke detectors in your home will sound as well. It’s recommended to place a smoke detector on every level of your house—preferably near sleeping areas.

    There are three types of smoke detectors you can choose from. Howstuffworks.com gives an excellent explanation of how each of these detectors work:

    • Photoelectric: Uses a light beam and sensor to detect smoke. As smoke travels into a compartment on the detector, that smoke covers the light beam, causing the detector to sound. Better for smoky fires (ex. a mattress or cloth fire).
    • Ionization: Uses a chamber to detect an abundance of smoke particles in the air and the accelerated movement of smoke particles signaling an increase of smoke in a room.  According to howstuffworks, “This type of smoke detector is more common because it is inexpensive and better at detecting the smaller amounts of smoke produced by flaming fires.”
    • Dual Sensor: Contains both Photoelectric and Ionization smoke sensors

    Smoke detectors are considered the cheapest option to keep your family safe in case of a fire in your home and range from $6 to $50.

    Fire Alarms

    A fire alarm system can sense heat as well as do everything a smoke detector can. Depending on the type of fire alarm you get and the money you’re willing to pay, a fire alarm can do much more than just signal that there’s a fire in the house.

    There are several options to choose from that can help you cater to your household. Some optional features  of a fire alarm include:

    • Fire Alarm Control Panel – connects the central monitoring station and all other parts of the system together—like the motherboard of a computer.
    • Sprinkler System—automatically activates when smoke particles reach high levels, protects you and property from excessive fire damage (but may cause some water damage as well).
    • Warning Systems—alarms, plus visual elements like strobe lights or flashing lights for those who are hearing impaired.
    • Fire Alarm Box-a pull down mechanism placed in a glass box that sends out a fire alert to local authorities. Similar to what you see in schools or office buildings.
    • Transmitter Devices—optional for elderly, can be worn around neck or as a wristband to signal for help.

    Note: Not all fire alarm systems offer all features

    Installing a fire alarm in your home is more difficult than putting in a smoke detector. Often, service professionals or fire alarm technicians install them. Some systems can be installed without professional help, but you’ll need to be somewhat familiar with electrical engineering to some extent.

    The benefit of a fire alarm over a smoke detector is the extra layer of protection you receive. Since fire alarms connect to local authorities, you can have a fast response if a fire starts in your home. They also have a longer lifespan than smoke detectors if regularly maintained.


    Smoke Detectors

    • Test the detector monthly.
    • Replace batteries once a year (if you have a detector that uses a lithium battery do not replace the battery, but replace the whole detector according to the manufacturer’s instructions).
    • Replace the detector every 8-10 years.
    • If your detector is hardwired to your electrical system, you should have a back-up battery in it as well. Replace the back-up battery once a year.

    Fire Alarms

    According to the Electrical Construction and Maintenance website, maintenance of a fire alarm is largely determined by the age of the system. Systems five years old and under do not have a lot of problems, but systems ranging from 10-20 years may. Depending  on the quality and frequency of the maintenance. . You’ll want to do yearly inspections to make sure your system is functioning properly, even in the first five years.

    Fire alarm maintenance is best performed by a trained technician who has knowledge of how fire alarm systems work. Generally, fire alarm maintenance requires testing each component.. Technicians generally test:

    • The audible components—horn, siren, bell
    • The visual components—flashing lights
    • The sensors—smoke and fire sensors, sprinkler system
    • The signaling system—ability to signal the fire department and local authorities of fire
    • The battery—checking  for corrosion

    For an in depth look at the maintenance service technicians perform on fire alarm systems, check out the article, “Fire Alarm System Testing, Inspection, and Maintenance” from the Electrical Construction and Maintenance website


    So which system would you prefer in your home? Fire Alarms or Smoke Detectors?








  • How to Prevent a Car Fire

    How to Prevent a Car Fire

    While driving on the freeway a couple of months ago, traffic was at a standstill. Now, this was not your typical 5 p.m. commuter traffic...Drivers had slowed down to look at a car sitting on the side of the road with 5 foot flames raging from its open hood.

    A motor vehicle fire is one of the most dangerous types of fires you can encounter. However, FEMA believes that “the dangers of motor vehicle fires are often overlooked. Each year, these fires kill over 300 people and injure 1,250 more.”

    Motor vehicle fires can cause toxic gases like carbon monoxide and other hazardous substances to emit from the vehicle which, if inhaled, can cause serious health problems. Flying debris and explosions are also possible along with severe or fatal burn injuries. Flames from a car fire can even shoot out distances of ten feet or more.

    Motor Vehicle Fire Safety

    When I witnessed that car fire, I noticed a couple of things the driver did to keep himself safe. Many of the things he did matched up with the safety suggestions from FEMA and the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).

    Here’s what he did—and what you can do, too, if you ever experience a car fire:

    • He pulled over into the breakdown section of the freeway (you can also pull into a rest stop).
    • He got out of the vehicle and was standing far away from it (the NFPA suggests to stand 100 ft. away from the vehicle).
    • He called 9-1-1 and told them the location of the fire.
    • He didn’t have any of his belongings with him. He didn’t try to go back to the car to retrieve any items left there.

    Some additional things you can do to stay safe:

    • DON’T open the hood or trunk of the car if you suspect the fire to be coming from there (our friend on the side of the road didn’t follow that guideline . . .). Opening them let’s air in and enlarges the flame. Doing this could injure you.
    • Once you pull over, turn off the engine.
    • If you have a fire extinguisher in your car, make sure it’s for use on class B (a fire fueled by flammable liquids) or class C (a fire caused by energized electrical objects or circuits) fires.
    • Make sure to use your fire extinguisher a safe distance away (5-10 feet) from the flames so you don’t get hurt.

    Preventing Motor Vehicle Fires

    In a study done by the NFPA, they found that “collisions and overturns were factors in only 4% of highway vehicle fires, [but] these incidents accounted for three of every five (60%) automobile fire deaths” from 2006-2010. The fire I witnessed started because of a collision, but motor vehicle fires can happen in other ways such as improper car maintenance. To avoid maintenance-related fires:

    1. Have your car serviced regularly. You should always do this, but especially if you notice leaks, or if there’s a change in the way it runs.

    2. Take notice of warning signs that your car needs maintenance to avoid fires include:

    • Cracked or loose wiring
    •  Electrical problems
    • Fuse blows (more than once)
    • Oil cap not on securely
    • Rapid changes in fuel level or fluid level, or engine temperature

    3. Never transport gasoline inside the car itself where passengers sit. If you transport gasoline in your car, make sure it is in a sealed canister and keep a window cracked for ventilation.


    Keep yourself safe on the road this year by following these tips. And while you’re at it, consider buying or making a Car emergency Kit in case of an issue that leaves you stranded on the road.

    What else would you suggest doing to protect yourself from a car fire? Let us know in the comments.






  • Preventing and Extinguishing Kitchen Fires

    Preventing and Extinguishing Kitchen Fires

    Could simply cooking dinner catch your home on fire?

    The fact is, 43% of all home fires begin in the kitchen. In 2011, there were 156,300 kitchen-based fires reported in the United States, causing 470 deaths, 5,390 injuries, and a billion dollars in property damage. This is not a statistic that anyone wants to be included in, so what can you do to avoid burning more than the roast or the toast?

    Types of Kitchen Fires

    Kitchen fires fall into three general categories:

    • Oil or grease fires (aka pan fires)
    • Electrical and appliance fires
    • Fires caused by flammable items being too close to a heat source


    Preventing Kitchen Fires

    Most kitchen fires can be prevented with careful attention to a few simple precautions. Here are a few tips for preventing each type of fire.

    Oil or grease fires

    • Never put hot grease in a garbage can. Keep a metal or glass container near your stove to pour used drippings or grease in to cool before throwing it away.
    • Do not overheat any fat or oil for frying. Use a thermometer to gauge the temperature. Also, it’s helpful to know the smoke point and flashpoint of the oil you’re using, as they differ.

    Electrical and appliance fires

    • Do not use extension cords for appliances—toasters, toaster ovens, microwaves, mixers, etc. They are not always as safe as plugging the actual cord into a proper outlet, and may not be equipped to carry the voltage your appliance requires.
    • Clean your toaster regularly, being sure to get old, dry bread crumbs out. Many toasters have a slip-out tray underneath to catch these—but also turn the toaster upside down to be sure you get as many out as you can.

    Flammable object fires

    • Wear clothing and sleeves that are close fitting when cooking. It’s too easy for loose clothing to drift close to a burner and ignite. Roll or push sleeves up when possible.
    • If you have frayed or worn appliance cords or plugs, have them replaced.
    • Keep small appliances such as toasters and mixers unplugged when not in use.
    • Keep your stovetop and counter clean of grease, food, and clutter. Keep spray cans such as vegetable baking spray and air freshener safely away from the cooking area.
    • Keep flammable objects—hot pads, mitts, towels, dishcloths, aprons, recipe books or cards, and paper towels—away from heat sources.

    Other tips for preventing kitchen fires

    • Stay in the kitchen while food is cooking! Make it a practice to turn off all burners if you have to leave the kitchen even for a “second.”
    • When baking, use a timer; it’s easy to forget that sheet of cookies when you’ve been baking several or multitasking.
    • Keep small children away from the stove and oven when anything is cooking. Always turn pot handles so that they don’t extend out where little ones can grab them and pull hot foods down on themselves. Some burner controls, especially those on the front of the stove, can be secured so that small hands can’t turn them on. (Check with your hardware store.)


    Extinguishing Kitchen Fires

    Oil and Grease Fires

    • Put a lid (or an upside down pan) over the pan to smother the fire and deprive it of oxygen. Turn off the heat source.

    - If that doesn’t do the trick, use a dry chemical fire extinguisher (not a water-based one).

    -  If you don’t have an extinguisher, tear the top off a box of baking soda and carefully dump the contents on the fire. Salt also works. DO NOT substitute flour, sugar, or  baking powder! They can explode and make the fire much worse. According to the Ohio Fire Safety Board, one cup of flour or sugar potentially has the explosive  power of two sticks of dynamite!

    • Never put water on a grease or oil fire—it will splatter and spread.
    • Don’t run with a burning pan; there’s too much danger of dripping and spreading the fire or burning yourself.
    • If you can’t put out the fire very quickly, yell and alert other people in the house to get out. Be sure you have an unobstructed path to an exit. Get out first, then call 911 if necessary.

    Electrical and appliance fires

    • If your oven—or something in it, such as the element—catches fire, close the oven door and turn off the heat source. If it doesn’t go out in a short time, use a dry chemical fire extinguisher on it, or just call 911. Do not use water.
    • If a fire erupts in your microwave, keep the oven door shut and turn off the microwave. Unplug it—but only if you can do so safely.
    • Never blow on flames or fan them with a towel or apron! That feeds oxygen to the fire, makes it worse, and can cause it to spread.
    • If an appliance has caused a fire or burned at all because of a fire, replace it. Do not try to use it again.

    DO NOT immerse a burning appliance in water! Use a dry chemical fire extinguisher, or get out of the house and call 911. If you safely can, unplug the appliance or turn off the breaker that cuts all power to the kitchen.

    Flammable Object Fires

    • If a small object such as a hot pad or a dishcloth catches fire, you can use a pair of tongs to drop it into the sink and douse it with water. If it’s a larger object such as a tablecloth, use a fire extinguisher.
    • If a person’s clothing catches fire, employ the “stop, drop and roll” technique. You may be able to smother the fire with a fire blanket, a rug, a heavy towel or coat. Douse it with water. Call 911.
    • Know how to use your fire extinguisher and fire blanket ahead of time. Study manufacturer’s instructions. A fire blanket is a safety device, usually made of fiberglass or other synthetic material, used to extinguish small fires such as pan fires by smothering the fire and depriving it of oxygen. Keep one in a handy place in the kitchen. Take a moment to watch this short video:

    Though most kitchen fires are preventable, when they do happen we can be prepared by having a good supply of baking soda on hand for pan fires, by having a kitchen-sized fire extinguisher and knowing how to use it, by having a fire blanket on hand to smother difficult fires, and by keeping [BurnFree Pain Relieving Gel] on hand for minor burns.

    From your experience, what other tips on kitchen fires would you offer?








3 Item(s)

Back to Top