Fire FAQ

Smoke Alarms

Q: MY SMOKE ALARM GOES OFF A LOT.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH IT?

  • First clean the unit with a vacuum cleaner.  Dust particles can and often do set off false alarms.
  • Second the unit may need to be relocated.  It could be too close to the kitchen, bathroom, heat register or it could be defective and need to be replaced.  Consult the installation instructions.
  • Third smoke detectors can become more sensitive with age.  They do have a useful service life.  In no case should a smoke detector be used for more than 10 years.

Q: MY SMOKE ALARM BEEPS.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH IT?

 The problem is usually a weak or improper battery.  Replace with a fresh battery as recommended by the manufacturer.

Q: ARE ANY SMOKE ALARMS NOT RECOMMENDED?

 Smoke detector recall – 120,000 purchased units are affected

 Six brands of battery operated smoke detectors are being recalled because they may not sound in the event of a fire.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is urging anyone who purchased a battery operated smoke detector on or after July 10, 1992, to check the unit immediately to see if it is involved in this recall.  The brands and models affected are:

Firm                                        Brand                          Model                                                             Date Code

Black & Decker                       Slim Line                      SMK100, SMK200, SMK300            9228 to 9246

Jameson Home Products Inc.    Code 1 2000                Model A, C & D                                  92192 to 92231

Walter Kidde Portable Equip. Kidde Smoke &             KSA700                                              92192 to 92231

Fire Alarm

Safety First                               Baby’s Room               244                                                      92192 to 92231

Smoke & Fire Alarm

Funtech                                    Safety’s Sake               Model A                                              92192 to 92231

Maple Chase                            Firex                            Model A & B                                       92192 to 92231

To identify an affected detector, examine the label on the back of the unit for the model and date codes listed above.

The aforementioned is courtesy of NFPA Fire News – Feb./Mar. 1993, Issue 793.

 

3.5 million smoke detectors recalled

 The Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced the recall of 3.5 million smoke detectors whose alarms may fail to sound in a fire.

The electrically powered smoke detectors, manufactured from October 1987 to March 1990 by BRK Electronics of Aurora, Ill., were marketed under the brand names of BRK, First Alert and Family Gard.  None of the company’s battery-operated detectors are being recalled, the commission said.

The commission said BRK had not received any reports of incidents or injuries associated with alarm failure.  The commission warned that, because the detectors are wired into a building’s electrical system, consumers should not attempt to remove or replace a recalled detector before speaking to a BRK representative.

Q: WHAT KIND OF SMOKE ALARM SHOULD I BUY?

 The Fire Department cannot recommend specific manufacturers.  We do recommend that electrical smoke alarms (hard wired) and any battery operated smoke alarms be U.L. Listed.

Q: WHERE SHOULD I INSTALL THE SMOKE ALARM?

  1. IN NEWLY CONSTRUCTED HOMES (Single Family)

Smoke detectors are required on every story of the dwelling unit including the basement.  They are to be installed in approved locations and hardwired, interconnected in conformance with the electrical code.  NFPA #70 and be provided with a battery backup power source.  Location of detectors should be:

  1. In the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms, not more than ten (10) feet away from the bedroom exit
  2. Detectors are also required within all bedrooms;
  3. In each story within the dwelling unit, including basement.

Note:  (One in bi-level without intervening door can cover both floors as long as it is less than one full story).

  1. Watch dead air spaces, i.e., 4” x 4” ceiling/wall corners;
  2. Sidewall mounting  allowed advise 9’ dead center from ceiling;
  3. Kitchens and bathrooms cause nuisance alarms.  Manufacturer’s specs call for a five (5) foot clearance or use of a photoelectric unit is warranted.  (If one is photo, then all units are unless listed with U.L. as compatible).

Nuisance Alarm Control:  Some smoke detectors – manufacturers provide a model with a “hush” feature, which momentarily switches  to a reduced sensitivity condition.  This reduction in sensitivity allows annoying and unwanted alarms to be silenced for approximately fifteen (15) minutes.  It is required that a copy of manufacturer’s specs (user’s manual) for installation of smoke detectors to be left at construction site.  Complete information on replacement maintenance and operation is explained within this manual.

  1. EXISTING HOMES WITH BATTERY OPERATED UNITS (Single Family)

Smoke detectors are required on each level of the premises and outside of each separate sleeping areas as minimum.

For complete coverage in a residential unit, smoke detectors can be installed in every room, in hallways, storage areas and the basement.

However, we suggest that you:

  • Put a smoke detector in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms, not more than ten (10) feet away from the bedroom exit doors.
  • Two detectors are required in homes with two bedroom areas.
  • Put a smoke detector on every floor of a multi –floor home.
  • Put a smoke detector inside every bedroom.
  • Put a smoke detector inside every room where someone sleeps with the door partly or completely closed.  Smoke could be blocked by the closed door.  Also, a hallway alarm may not wake up the sleeper if the door is closed.
  • Put smoke detectors at both ends of the bedroom hallway if the hallway is more than 40 feet (12 meters) long.
  • Put basement detectors at the bottom of the basement stairwell.
  • Put second-floor detectors at the top of the first-to-second floor stairwell.  He sure no door or other obstruction blocks the path of smoke to the detector.
  • Put detector as close to the center of the ceiling when ceiling mounted.  If this is not practical, put the detector on the ceiling, no closer than 4 inches from any wall or corner.
  • If ceiling mounted is not possible and wall mounting is permitted, put wall-mounted detectors between 7 and 9 inches from the ceiling.
  • Some rooms have sloped, peaked or gabled ceilings.  If yours do, mount detectors 3 feet measured horizontally from the highest point of the ceiling.
  • For added safety, some companies now market a dual chambered model which combines an ionization type and a photo electric type smoke detector.  It’s like having two detectors at once.

Q: MY LANDLORD REFUSES TO INSTALL A SMOKE ALARM IN MY APARTMENT.  WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

 The landlord is responsible.

Battery operated smoke detectors may be installed within the tenant space in most multiple dwellings provided they are maintained, tested and inspected as follows:

  • The owner of the building or his representative shall inspect each detector whenever a change of occupant occurs; and
  • The owner of the building or his representative shall clean the detector and/or replace the batteries as necessary, but at least once a year, to assure proper operation.
  • It is generally accepted that the owner will supply batteries as needed to the tenants.

As a tenant, you should test the smoke detectors regularly and report any malfunctions to the owner.

 

Fire Extinguishers

Q: WHAT TYPE AND SIZE OF FIRE EXTINGUISHER SHOULD I HAVE?

The recommended extinguisher for home use is a “Dry Chemical” type, generally type 2A-10BC.

Q: WHERE SHOULD I STORE MY FIRE EXTINGUISHER?

 Store your extinguisher away from the stove, near the entrance to the kitchen.  Mount the extinguisher on the bracket that is supplied with the extinguisher.  In your workshop, mount the extinguisher away from power tools, near the exit.

CAUTION:  Never put yourself or anyone else in jeopardy by trying to extinguish a fire which may be too large. Sound an alarm to other occupants, leave the building closing all doors behind you and call the Fire Department (9-1-1).  Go to your designated meeting place and wait for firefighters to arrive.

 

Q: HOW DO I USE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER?

 If you are called on to use your extinguisher to fight a fire, just think of the words, PASS:

PULL on safety pin at the top of the extinguisher.

AIM the nozzle, horn or hose at the base of the flame (6 to 8 feet away).

SQUEEZE or press the handle.

SWEEP from side to side at the base of the fire until it goes out.

Always follow manufacturers instructions as listed on the unit.  NEVER GO BACK INTO A BURNING BUILDING!

 Q: ARE THE CONTENTS OF A DRY CHECMICAL EXTINGUISHER TOXIC?

 No.  Dry chemical extinguishers are usually filed with Mono-ammonium phosphate.  This is a non-toxic substance, however, large amounts of this powder in the air can cause breathing difficulties.  Leave the area after discharging a dry chemical fire extinguisher.  Call the Fire Department (9-l-l) to ensure that the fire is completely extinguished.

 Q: WHERE CAN I BUY OR SERVICE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER?

 Hardware stores and department stores in your area stock fire extinguishers.  You can also refer to the “Yellow Pages” of the phone directory for servicing companies.  Most extinguisher servicing companies have units for sale, which are suitable for home use.

 

Propane Tanks

Q: WHERE SHOULD I STORE MY PROPANE TANK?

 All propane tanks should be stored outside or in a detached shed, protection from elements and at least 5 feet from any openings to the building (basement windows, doors, vents etc.).  Never store in the basement.

Q: HOW DO I DISPOSE OF AN OLD PROPANE TANK?

 Take all expired propane tanks back to an outlet that refills them.  Do not keep them around your home or garage and do not include them with your regular refuse pick-up.

Q: CAN DISPOSABLE PROPANE CYLINDERS BE STORED INDOORS?

 No.  Like larger cylinders, they should be stored outside or in a separate shed not within 5 feet of any opening to the building.  (Basement windows, doors, vents etc.)

Q: CAN I HAVE A PROPANE BAR-B-QUE ON MY BALCONY IN AN APARTMENT BUILDING?

 No.  On March 2, 1992, the State of New Jersey, Department of Community Affairs, Bureau of Fire Safety, adopted regulations limiting the use of propane barbecue grills in multi-family buildings.

The specific code section reads as follows:

N.J.A.C. 5:18-3.3(h) 3:  Propane cooking equipment such as barbecue grills shall not be stored or used on any porch, balcony or any other portion of a building within any room or space of a building, within five feet of any combustible exterior wall, or within five feet vertically or horizontally of an opening in any wall.

While these grills may be very convenient for the residents, they present a serious fire, explosion and life safety problem for residents and firefighters alike.

 

Home and Apartment Safety

Q: HOW HIGH DO THE FIRE DEPARTMENT LADDERS REACH?

 Approximately 6 stories for aerial ladders, and 7 stories for the aerial platforms.  It is dependent on how close the apparatus can get to the building, and if there is underground parking which will restrict fire apparatus due to their weight.

The Rahway Fire Department has an Emergency One platform tower.  At maximum angle of 80° it has a 95 feet reach.  At an angle of 60° it has a reach of 84 feet.

Q: HOW LONG SHOULD EMERGENCY POWER LAST?

 It is dependent on the building and how the emergency power is supplied.  Many newer buildings have emergency generators which will give continuous uninterrupted lighting in stairwells, hallways and other buildings will have battery-operated systems which provide lighting for a defined time period.  Under the Building Code, emergency power must last long enough for occupants to safely leave the building. (one hour)

Q: WHY CAN’T I USE THE ELEVEATORS DURING A FIRE ALARM?

  • Elevators could become a smoke shaft during a fire.
  • The power could fail leaving you trapped in the elevator car.
  • The door could open at the fire floor exposing you to extreme heat and smoke.
  • Firefighters need the elevator to transport manpower and equipment to the upper floors as quickly as possible.

Q: HOW OFTEN DOES THE FIRE ALARM SYSTEM IN THE BUILDING GET TESTED?

Automatic and manual fire alarm systems and each of their components are tested annually.  In addition, fire drills are mandated more frequently within certain use groups.

  • In day cares, fire drills are held at least once a month.
  • Our schools conduct a minimum of six drills within a three-month period.
  • Dormitories are required to have fire drills twice annually.

Q: IS THE FIRE ALARM SYSTEM CONNECTED DIRECTLY TO THE FIRE STATIONS?

 No.  Some buildings are monitored by private companies, which will notify the Fire Department when the fire alarm is activated.  It is important for people to call 9-1-1 from the building and not assume that someone else has advised the Fire Department.

Q: I SAW PICTURES OF THAT TERRIBLE FIRE IN ____________.  COULD THAT HAPPEN HERE?

Fire is an equalizer.  It has no respect for age, sex or economic status in any given community.  There are some basic safety rules which can greatly lessen the chance of being part of an unwanted statistic.  If you wish further assistance or information, please call our Fire Prevention Bureau (732) 827-2133.

Q: WHAT ARE THE USUAL CAUSES OF FIRE IN A HIGH-RISE?

 Fires in high-rise apartments are caused the same as in any other dwelling – smoking, cooking accidents, electrical and arson.

Q: WHY IS THE EXIT TO THE ROOF ALLOWED TO BE LOCKED?

 Doors or hatches from a stairwell leading to the roof of the building are not considered to be fire exits under the fire code.  Exit from a building is considered to be down and to the outside.  These doors are locked mostly from the standpoint of building liability and security.

Q: IF I AM NOT PHYSICALLY CAPABLE OF USING THE STAIRS, WHAT SHOULD I DO?

 If your building as a “fire safety plan” in effect, ask to have your name and address placed on the “persons requiring assistance” page.  This page is checked by the Senior Fire Officer at the scene in the event of a fire in the building.

In the even of an alarm or fire in the building and you are trapped:

  • Stay in your unit.
  • Seal wet towels around your door or duct tape to keep smoke out.
  • Call 9-1-1 and give the dispatcher your exact location (apartment #, etc.).  Signal rescuers from your balcony or window.

Q: WHY CAN’T THE DOORS TO THE STAIRWELLS BE LEFT OPEN FOR BETTER VENTILATION?

 These doors protect the stairwell from the spread of smoke, heat and hot gases so that they can be used to safely evacuate people from the building.  A door, which is wedged open, would allow the smoke to fill the stairwell as well as the upper floors of the building, putting the occupants at risk.

Q: DO YOU STILL HAVE RESCUE WINDOW STICKERS TO INDICATE A CHILD’S BEDROOM?

 Yes, but a sticker is no substitute for a home fire escape plan.  We encourage everyone to plan their own escape in advance and to practice it regularly.  However, if you should choose to use a sticker, the best placement is any child’s room window located above the ground level.

Q: HOW DO I DISPOSE OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SUCH AS OLD PAINT CANS, FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS, ETC?

 The City of Rahway sponsors disposal days seasonably.  For information, contact Solid Waste & Recycling Director Mike Smalling at (732) 827-2159.

Union County also sponsors disposal days.  For information call (908) 654-9889.

Q: HOW CLOSE SHOULD MY DRAPES COME TO AN ELECTRIC BASEBOARD HEATER?

 The rule of thumb is not closer than 2 inches.  Many manufacturers of heaters have recommended distances to be observed when using their products.  Always consult the manufacturers.