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Smoke Detectors
SEM Security Systems
a division of Southeast Mobility Inc
There are many different types of smoke detectors and I won't get into all of that but what I want to address here is the difference between a smoke detector which is attached to your alarm system and the typical smoke detector that you purchase and install yourself.

For the sake of this discussion let's assume that both types of smoke detectors are identical in their ability to identify smoke and sound an alarm. So why pay our outrageous price for smoke detectors. Well to begin with our smoke detectors cost us 8 to 10 times as much as you can purchase one for at your local walmart, but there are definite advantages. To begin with, our smoke detectors are either wired to the panel and use the battery back up in the panel for power in the event of an ac power outage. If we use wireless smoke detectors, they have an internal battery but instead of changing it twice a year as is recommended in a stand alone smoke detector, the battery normally last 3 to 5 years. When the battery does need to be changed, the smoke detector will communicate that to the panel and you will be notified on your keypad that the battery needs to be changed and which smoke detector the low battery is on.

Another advantage is area wide notification. If you are asleep in the bedroom and a fire starts in the basement, it may become an inferno before smoke is detected near or in your bedroom by your stand alone smoke detectors. If your smokes are on our alarm system, no matter where the smoke is detected all of the sirens in the building are going to sound, giving you more advance warning and time to get to safety.

Alarm panel smoke detectors are working 24/7 and even if you are not home the panel can notify the monitoring computer and a fire department can be dispatched to the scene.

What are the disadvantages? To begin with there's the cost as previously mentioned. Also, if you purchase your own smoke detectors you can put in as many or as few as you want. If an alarm company puts in your smoke detectors they are bound by code to install them in certain places as a minimum. Specifically, if it is an existing structure they are required outside of the bedrooms, at the bottom of any stairs (including the basement stairway), within 15 ft of any keypads, and in the room with the alarm panel. If the alarm panel is hidden away inside the master bedroom closet, then by code there is suppose to be a smoke detector inside that closet. If it is a new construction, then in addition to the areas listed above, you have to have smoke detectors inside each bedroom.

This is the minimum, and the purpose is to assure that you have a safe passage from inside the building to escape to safety. There are no requirements for smokes where a fire is likely to start. For instance there are no requirements for smokes near your cloths dryer, or electrical panel, or gas fired heating unit. There are no requirements for heat detectors in your attic where a wiring fire is likely to start nor is there a requirement for a heat detector in the kitchen where a grease fire would be likely to start. All of these areas are good locations for smoke or heat detectors and you should consider doing more than the minimum if your budget will allow it.

And one last word about smoke detectors attached to your alarm system. Code requires that if you add smoke detectors to an alarm system, that all powered devices on that system must be connected with "fire wire". Fire wire has a higher temperature rated covering than the wire that is normally used on an alarm system. It is easily identified because all fire wire is red in color. It must be used on all powered devices which include smoke detectors, keypads, glass break detectors, sirens, ac input power, and phones lines, as well as any other device that is powered by the system. That basically excludes door contacts. If you have smoke detectors on your alarm panel, you should open the panel and look for the presence of these red wires. If they aren't there, you should notify your alarm company immediately. In the event of a fire, your insurance claim could be denied if the fire marshal determines that your system was not installed according to code.