Fire Prevention and Safety
Prevention At Home
Every year thousands of people die from fires in the home. Fire kills an estimated 4,000 Americans every year and another 30,000 are seriously injured. Property damage from fire costs us at least $11.2 billion annually. Most fire victims feel that fire would "never happen to them."
Fire Power Revisited - Video, NFPA
About two-thirds of our nation's fire deaths happen in the victim's own home. The home is where we feel the safest, but are actually at the greatest risk and where we must take the most precautions. Most deaths occur from inhaling smoke or poisonous gases, not from the flames.
Smoke Alarms & Smoke Detectors
A Johns Hopkins University study found that 75 percent of residential fire deaths and 84 percent of residential fire injuries could have been prevented by smoke detectors.Learn More About Smoke Alarms & Smoke Detectors
Most fatal fires occur in residential buildings between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. when occupants are more likely to be asleep.
The City of Olympia Codes requires all residential occupancies built after April 1983, and all residences undergoing $1,000 or more of remodeling to have smoke detectors. The construction code mandates installation of hard wire smoke detectors in all apartments built after the same date.Types of Smoke Detectors
Ionization detectors contain radioactive material that ionizes the air, making an electrical path. When smoke enters, the smoke molecules attach themselves to the ions. The change in electric current flow triggers the alarm. The radioactive material is called americium. It's a radioactive metallic element produced by bombardment of plutonium with high energy neutrons. The amount is very small and not harmful.
These type of detectors contain a light source (usually a bulb) and a photocell, which is activated by light. Light from the bulb reflects off the smoke particles and is directed towards the photocell. The photocell then is activated to trigger the alarm.
When choosing a smoke detector, there are several things to consider. Think about which areas of the house you want to protect, where fire would be most dangerous, and how many you will need.
The safest bet is to have both kinds or a combination detector with a battery back up. Be sure to check for a testing laboratory label on the detector. It means that samples of that particular model have been tested under operating conditions. Check to see if it is easy to maintain and clean. Be sure bulbs and batteries are easy to purchase and convenient to install.
The placement of smoke detectors is very important. Smoke detectors should be placed:
- Inside each sleeping area
- In each hallway (2 if longer than 30 feet)
- On every level of the home, in or near living areas, including the basement
- At the top of each stairwell
- Smoke detectors are NOT recommended for kitchens
You can mount many detectors by yourself, but those connected to your household wiring should have their own separate circuit and be installed by a professional electrician. If you mount your detector on the ceiling, be sure to keep it at least 18 inches away from dead air space near walls and corners. If you mount it on the wall, place it six to 12 inches below the ceiling and away from corners. Be sure to keep the detector away from fireplaces and wood stoves to avoid false alarms. Keep them high because smoke rises.
Keeping smoke detectors in good condition is easy. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to replace the batteries every year or as needed. Most models will make a chirping, popping or beeping sound when the battery is losing its charge. When this sound is heard, install a fresh battery, preferably an alkaline type.
Replace bulbs every three years or as needed. Keep extras handy. Check the smoke detector every 30 days by releasing smoke or pushing the test button. Clean the detector face and grillwork often to remove dust and grease. Never paint a smoke detector as it will hamper its function. Check your detector if you've been away from home.
Residential Fire Sprinklers
Home fire sprinklers are a critical in saving lives and property. Your risk of dying in a home fire is cut by 80% when sprinklers are present.Learn More About the Benefits of Home Sprinkler Systems
- Why You Need Home Sprinklers - Video, NFPA
- Home Sprinkler Demonstration - Video, City of Plymouth, MA
- Home Sprinklers: How they Work, Maintenance, & Myths - Video, Home Fire Spinkler Coalition
Special hazards affect those who live in apartments. Download our Apartment Fire Safety Fact Sheet for tips and information on preventing and surviving an apartment fire.
Prevention at Your Business
Not all fires can be prevented, but inspections and standards minimize loss of life, injuries, and property. Our Fire Prevention Division fulfills this critical public safety mission by inspecting properties and consulting on new construction in the City.
Fire Prevention also supports the Operations Division by investigating the causes of fires and providing feedback to the firefighters in what causes fires and how extinguishing efforts mitigate that damage. The Division also coordinates and presents public education programs to schools, elder populations and other groups.
Building Inspection Program
Commercial spaces and high occupancy residential buildings are inspected annually or semiannually depending on the hazards and complexity of the inspection.Learn More about the Building Inspection Program
Fire inspections reduce damage, loss of life and the demand for emergency responses in the City. In addition, inspections are required by the fire code and State law. Download our Building Inspection Checklist to be prepared in advance.What Does the Inspection Include?
Inspections cover business areas, public areas and exterior space of businesses and multi-family residential buildings.
Business owners have direct contact with fire inspectors allowing for open dialog on fire related topics.
Yes. The fee ranges from $25 to several hundred dollars depending on business size and inspection difficulty. The fees pay for a portion of the cost of the fire inspection program and staff.
Businesses generally have 14 days to comply with the fire code as noted on the fire inspections. Life threatening or repeat violations may need to be corrected immediately or within a short timeline.
Report corrections to your fire inspector within 14 days of the inspection.
Businesses are liable for problems noted during the fire inspections. A Fire Inspector will contact you in an effort to correct the items that are outstanding. You may be billed for additional time spent on issues due to noncompliance.
Fire Extinguisher Self-Inspection
This program allows businesses to self inspect, allowing for a 6 year interval between complete servicing of certain extinguishers. Download the Fire Extinguisher Self Inspection Procedures.