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Test and Inspect Your Condo Smoke Alarm

November 29th, 2016 | by admin admin | in Safety Advice |    30   comments

smoke_alarm.jpgSmoke alarms save lives and property. From 2006 to 2011, 663 people died in 50,000 residential fires across Alberta, B.C. and Ontario. A functioning smoke detector or alarm in these homes would have reduced the fatality rate by 74 per cent. In fact, in Ontario, the fire death rate dropped from 30.9 per million in 1980 to 6.8 per million in 2005, largely thanks to the increased use of smoke alarms and detectors. Moreover, an analysis of 11,000 structure fires in B.C. showed a functioning smoke detector reduced property damage by 19 per cent (Garis and Clare, p. 1)

However, smoke alarms and detectors don’t work forever. Manufacturers require them to be replaced every 10 years. Long before then, owners often fail to clean and maintain them. The key word is “functioning.” The Ontario Ministry of Community and Correctional Services notes that in fatal residential fires (non-arson) where the smoke alarm did not operate, 45 per cent of the detectors were not connected to power. They either had dead batteries or none at all (OMCCS, p. 5),

So, testing and inspection of your condominium’s smoke alarm or detector is critical. But first, you need to consider the difference between a smoke alarm and detector.

Inside your condo suite, you likely have smoke alarms installed. In condo units, they tend to be hard-wired, rather than battery-operated, and rely on a local, audible alarm.

Smoke detectors, meanwhile, are hardwired into a security system and work 24/7, even when the system is not armed. In a condo high-rise, they protect the common areas and must be tested and inspected by an ASTT-certified technician.

Vancouver Fire and Radius Security conducts fire inspections in multi-unit residential buildings. Our technicians will test and inspect the smoke alarms and detectors, noting:

  • Is the unit photoelectric, ionized or dual sensor? Photoelectric smoke detectors, which rely on a light sensor, are more responsive to smouldering fires that build up over time. Ionization smoke alarms, triggered by a disruption in an electric current, are more sensitive to flaming fires. A dual sensor provides the most complete protection. Understanding the different mechanisms can help address malfunctions.
  • Do the batteries need to be changed?
  • Is the unit painted over? Does it need to be cleaned?

Testing and inspection of smoke alarms does not require an ASTT-certified technician. You can test your home unit monthly yourself and clean it at least every six months. However, VanFire technicians go a step further by using a smoke spray that simulates real smoke to test each unit. And you can rest assured that all the units in your condominium or apartment complex have undergone consistent, professional testing and inspection of their smoke detectors.

Contact VanFire today to arrange testing and inspection for the smoke alarms and detectors in your condo high-rise.


Fire Prevention Canada. Smoke Alarms (fact sheet).

CMHC. Fire Experience, Smoke Alarms and Sprinklers in Canadian Houses: CMHC Research to 2005. (Technical Series 05-107, April 2005)

Garis and Clare. Smoke Alarms Work, But Not Forever: Posing the Challenge of Adopting Multifaceted, Sustained, Interagency Responses to Ensuring the Presence of a Functioning Smoke Alarm. (University of the Fraser Valley, January 2012).

Ontario ministry of community and correctional services. Ontario Smoke Alarm Status in Residential Fires, 2009 to 2013.

Note: This blog discusses general safety and security topics. It is not intended to provide comprehensive advice or guidance. In all matters of personal safety and security, we encourage readers to research topics in depth and consult a security professional about specific concerns.

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