What if my Smoke Alarm is beeping

Smoke Alarm on Yellow Background

What is a smoke alarm?

When it comes to smoke alarms, there is a common misconception. A smoke alarm is an all-in-one device that will sound an alarm when it detects smoke. They are different from the smoke detectors connected to fire alarm systems. You can find smoke alarms in residential homes or apartments. They are also found in sleeping quarters in hotels and other camp-style accommodations.

Smoke alarms encompass different technologies to detect smoke, which are covered here. They sometimes come as combination units that can detect carbon monoxide within the same device. Many of these devices are battery-powered, while others are connected to the 120V supply of the building. If the smoke alarm is a 120V connected device, they can often interface with other alarms to sound throughout the home.

How to maintain a smoke alarm

Smoke alarms, like any piece of technology, should be appropriately maintained. With the proper maintenance, smoke alarms can save lives. The maintenance of these alarms is quite similar, no matter the detection technology or power method. Testing should be completed at least monthly by following these steps:

Smoke Alarm Test Button
  • Press the button on your alarm and keep it pressed down. The alarm should sound. If interconnected, the other alarms should sound as well.
  • If your alarm has no button, it is outdated and must be replaced.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on testing and maintaining your alarm.
  • Check the expiration date on the side or back of the device. If there isn’t one, replace it.

If the alarm fails to sound or the alarm is past its expiration date, we recommend it be immediately replaced. We also recommend that you blow any dust that may be present within the casing out of the unit every year. This will minimize false alarms and maximize its detection potential.

Regular false alarms can be a detriment to these life-saving technologies, as they desensitize the occupants of the sound. With the alarm regularly sounding, people will automatically assume it a false alarm, which may cost them their life. When replacing a line-voltage or 120V unit, please ensure to hire qualified personnel, such as Nexus Fire & Safety to make sure the device is replaced properly and safely. When replacing interconnected devices, it is important to replace all units with the same make and model, to make sure the interconnection continues to work.

Why is my alarm beeping/chirping?

Smoke alarms are built with fail-safes to provide a warning if something is malfunctioning. For battery-powered or battery-backup devices, the unit will start chirping if the battery is low or missing. For line-voltage or 120V powered, the units will often chirp if line voltage is lost during a power outage. This is used to indicate that the unit is on its battery backup and may power off if power is not restored to it.

All detectors have an expiry date, which is usually 10 years, but as short as 5 years for some brands and types. Many of these detectors will start beeping in regular intervals, once every minute or something of the sort. If there is no expiry date or if the data has passed, we recommend the smoke alarm be replaced immediately.

A beeping or chirping alarm is not just an annoyance, but it is trying to tell you that something is wrong. We recommend immediate action be taken as it is a life-safety device and should be maintained to the highest possible standard. If in doubt as to what the beeping is indicating, consult the manufacturer’s manual, which should be available on their website.

Nexus Fire & Safety carries a large stock of smoke alarms and is ready to assist with replacing any outdated units that you may have. We have electricians on staff that are more than qualified to assist with any new installations or replacements of the devices. Additionally, we can provide design assistance for placement and answer any general fire safety questions you may have.

Are All Fire Extinguishers Created Equal?

Hand Holding Fire Extinguisher Handle

Fire Extinguishers are around us all the time and we should always know where the nearest one is. All extinguishers, however, are not created equal. There are different sizes and different types of fire extinguishers intended to fight different classes of fires.

To be truly fire smart, the right fire extinguisher has to be installed in the right location. This will maximize the effectiveness of a fire extinguisher in the event of a fire.

Fire basics and why the type of fire matters

Fire Tetrahedron – Elements required for Fire

The theory of fire is based on what is called the Tetrahedron. It outlines the four elements required for a fire to be present. By removing one of these elements, the fire cannot continue and is thus extinguished. The four elements are:

  • Fuel
  • Heat
  • Oxygen
  • Chain Reaction

A fire extinguisher works on the principle that it will remove one or multiple of these elements and stop the fire in its tracks. There are different types of fuel for the fire and that is where the different classes of fire extinguishers come in. The reason for the different classes becomes quite obvious with the example of using a water extinguisher on an electrical fire. This will cause a hazard to the user.

There are five main classes of fires, which we will discuss further in this article.There is a specific extinguisher for each class and some cover multiple classes. The classes are:

  • Class A – Ordinary Combustibles, such as paper or wood
  • Class B – Flammable Liquids, such as gasoline
  • Class C – Live Electrical Fire – Serves as the cause for a Class A or B fire. If the electrical is removed, it is no longer a Class C fire.
  • Class D – Combustible Metals, such as Magnesium or Sodium
  • Class K – Grease Fires

Types of Fire Extinguishers

With a basic understanding of fires and why different fire extinguishers are necessary, let’s discuss the six main types of extinguishers and their uses:

A-B-C Fire Extinguishers

ABC Fire Extinguishers contain a fine powder, commonly mono-ammonium phosphate. It is the most common fire extinguisher found in just about every building. This type of extinguisher has the advantage that it is highly versatile as it can be used on Class A, B and C fires. The principle and ABC extinguisher operates under is that it blankets the fire and aims to starve the fire of its Oxygen. The powder is not an electrical conductor and can effectively interrupt the chain reaction in a gas or liquid fire.

Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers

Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers primarily fight Class K or grease fires. The chemical inside of a Class K extinguisher is a solution primarily composed of potassium, which fights the fire in two separate ways. The chemical will act to cool the fire initially, starving the fire of the heat component. Upon contact with the grease or cooking medium, the chemical starts to foam and blankets the area, which is intended to prevent re-ignition of the fire. While we chemical extinguishers are your perfect choice for a kitchen, they can also be effective on Class A fires.

Water-mist Fire Extinguishers

Water Mist Fire Extinguishers are the newest type of fire extinguisher. These extinguishers work across almost all classes of fire. When used, the water fire extinguisher releases a fine mist of water, which attacks several elements of the fire tetrahedron.

First, it starves the first of oxygen, as the fine water particles take up space and decrease the oxygen levels near the fire. Second, the water will cool the fire and affect the heat component, as water naturally does. What is unique about water extinguishers is that the water generally has had all minerals removed (de-ionized), which means it can also be used on electrical fires, as it does not act as a conductor. That means that water fire extinguishers are effective for Class A, B, C and K fires.

Clean Agent Fire Extinguishers

Clean agents are a type of gas fire extinguisher. The extinguisher contains a liquid, which, when discharged, will convert to its gaseous form. The gas is non-conductive, leaves no residue and dissipates very quickly which makes it Eco-friendly. The gas used is usually a Hydrochlorofluorocarbon, marketed as Halotron. The extinguishing agent reduces the oxygen levels and impedes the chain reaction of the fire. As it doesn’t leave any residue, it is ideal for server and electrical equipment or Class B and C fires.

Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers

A CO2 Extinguisher is another type of clean agent extinguisher, as it does not leave any residue. The extinguisher disperses the oxygen from the fire and replaces it with the CO2 contained within. This effectively suffocates the fire, making it the perfect choice for Class B and C fires.

Foam Fire Extinguishers

A foam extinguisher contains a liquid, which foams and expands upon contact with the air. The foam then blankets the fire, which starves the fire of its fuel. The foam has a cooling effect as well, as it does contain some water. Foam extinguishers can be used on Class A and are excellent for Class B fires, though lose their effectiveness for gaseous fires.

Are you protected?

Now that you have more information about the types of fire extinguisher that are out there, take a look around and see what fire extinguishers your business has. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher for every hazard class that may be present in your facility.

Another important aspect to fire extinguishers and fire safety is getting the extinguishers maintained and inspected, and ensuring everyone is properly trained on how to use a fire extinguisher.

Nexus Fire & Safety can assist with fire extinguisher layout and ensuring the right extinguisher for the hazard is present. Our team is fully certified and can provide training for your staff. We are also equipped to maintain and test your fire extinguishers, ensuring they are ready for use, should you need them.

Kitchen Suppression Inspection – What to Expect

Pan on Fire in Commercial Kitchen

Kitchen Fire Suppression systems are the heart of fire protection for commercial kitchens. Due to the presence of grease, an inspection of the fire suppression system has to be performed every six months. In this article we outline what to expect during a Kitchen Fire Suppression inspection and how to prepare for it. A kitchen that is ready to be inspected allows us to complete the inspection more efficiently and keeps your staff, as well as our technicians safe.

Preparing for a Kitchen Fire Suppression Inspection

Our scheduling team at Nexus Fire & Safety will reach out to you to schedule your inspection. Ideally pick a time before any cooking activities are started and when a minimal number of kitchen staff is present. This ensures that our technicians have enough space to complete the inspection and we are not in anyone’s way when they’re trying to cook.

If the building your kitchen is in has a fire alarm system, there is a good chance the Kitchen Fire Suppression system is connected to the fire alarm system. Please ensure that you have contacted the necessary parties, such as a building manager, to allow for access to the fire alarm. Additionally, make sure you have the monitoring information for the fire alarm ready, so our technician can put the system on test.

The areas that our technicians would need access to are:

  • Kitchen Hood
  • Gas Valve (Generally located close to the kitchen hood)
  • Fire Alarm System
  • Electrical Panel

Please ensure that these areas are readily accessible, as they may need to be accessed multiple times.

Most time for the inspection is spent under the hood. Any appliances should NOT be turned on before inspection. This keeps our technicians safe from potential burn hazards.

What to Expect During a Kitchen Fire Suppression Inspection

Kitchen Fire Suppression inspections follow a rigorous process to meet UL(C) and manufacturer standards. The steps are very similar between system manufacturers. Upon arrival our technicians will follow the following steps every time:

  • Contact Monitoring and Bypass Fire Alarm (if applicable)
  • Deactivate Suppression System
  • Locate Gas Valve and Link Lines
  • Test System Actuation
  • Inspect System Setup and Replace Fusible Links
  • Test Pull Station Actuation
  • Reset System
  • Re-Arm System
  • Reset Fire Alarm System (if applicable)

During this process, some pressurized test cylinders may be discharged. Additionally beeping and loud mechanical noises may be heard. These are perfectly normal and are part of every inspection. Prepare your staff that these inspections are happening and of the possible sounds. This ensures that no one takes the initiative to call the fire department, as it is only a test.

Upon completion of the tests, our team will walk you through any of our findings. A report will also be provided and the system will be tagged with an inspection tag, outlining the services that were performed.

Why do I need an inspection?

Kitchen Fire Suppression Inspections are a crucial part to ensuring the fire safety of your kitchen and the building around it. Kitchens have many fire hazards present with open flames, grease, flammable liquids and solids. Ensuring the system that is going to protect your business and staff in the worst case scenario is important.

Fire Suppression System Fusible Link

Kitchen Fire Suppression systems are mechanical systems and thus are not perfect. With an inspection every six months, the risks of a system failure a minimized. Failures can stem from a greased up component, a damaged cylinder or something stored in the wrong place, preventing access. Most Kitchen Fire Suppression systems work with fusible links. These are metal components designed to melt when a specific temperature is reached. These links require replacement, as they get coated with grease and debris, which may affect their temperature ratings.

With an inspection, all of these factors are inspected and should anything be amiss, it will be documented and addressed. An inspection will also minimize the risk of an accidental discharge of the system, which may save you a significant amount in the future.

Nexus Fire & Safety is fully certified to install, service and repair Kitchen Fire Suppression systems. Our team is ready to answer any questions that you may have and will ensure you have the best experience possible with every inspection. Call us today if you have a Kitchen Fire Suppression system in need of servicing or any questions related to fire safety.