June 20th, 2019

The I’s and P’s of Fire Safety


Do you think you have the right smoke alarms in your house? There are two very different types of alarms. You need both to be safer. One is “ionization” and the other is “photoelectric”. Those words don’t mean much to most people, but they make the difference in waking up to a smoky hallway in time to get out or dying in your sleep. Take the alarms down and check the back for a small ‘i’ or small ‘p’. Both outsides look alike, but the guts are very different. (Associate the ‘i’ with the word “fire” and the small ‘p’ with “puffs of smoke”.)

The small ‘i’ alarm senses hot smoke or steam, or actual blaze like over your stove, a fireplace, your house electrical entrance, your overloaded computer outlet. The ‘p’ alarm senses meandering smoke and smoldering fires like: a cigarette in a couch or pillow, cigarette butts dumped into trash, charcoal not completely put out in the back shed. Smoldering fires fill up your house slowly with deadly smoke, but will kill you in your bed.

The small ‘p’ alarm must be in the hall, up the stairway to the bedrooms, or over bedroom doors. They react immediately to wisps of smoke, wafting throughout the house and along the ceilings. You may not hear the ‘i’ alarm if it is to far away and around too many corners. Smoldering fires can produce tons of smoke before they burst into flame.

There is an excellent book written by Barre City firefighter, Russell Ashe, on the shocking discoveries made in the investigation of a five-fatality fire in Barre in 2005. Contact him for a copy. The ‘i’ alarms didn’t sond in that fire but were found to be in working order afterward. The book is called “The Fire That Changed Everything.” Get your ‘i’s and ‘p’s in order and read that book twice a year.

Letitia H. Rydjeski

Randolph, VT

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