Looking for an interconnected smoke and carbon monoxide detector that is feature packed yet economical to install? BRK has one that will knock out its rivals. The ‘voice with location’ feature means this is an alarm that provides necessary hazard warnings to the visually impaired and the blind.
BRK Electronics claim to be the professional standard for residential safety, a lofty claim. Looking at their track record over the last 50 years I’m tempted to agree with them.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
What’s it good at?
Interconnected – connect up to 12 devices that means bells, horns, strobe lights and more smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Voice Alert – the audio alarm has 11 per-programmed locations. That’s right – this alarm will tell you where the alert is taking place e.g. garage, kitchen or bedroom. The alarm has been configured so that the hard of hearing, the elderly and small children will have little trouble hearing this alarm when it sounds.
1 button test – nothing complicated here. Test your alarm with only the push of a button. The only button located on the device. They couldn’t have made it simpler.
8 Hour Hush, for low battery chirp – This for me, is the most important feature on BRK’s First Alert Combination Monoxide and Smoke Detector. It might seem small, but after experiencing a low battery chirp start to go off early on a Sunday night before work, on my previous alarm that didn’t have a hush feature. You can appreciate how much this means to me.
End of Life Alert – Most states require residences to update their smoke and carbon monoxide alarm systems every decade. This unit takes care of that remembering when, for you.
Complimentary Dust Cover Included – BRK makes products for professionals. They understand that new construction sites often have dust and debris flying around which can hinder the operation of a smoke detector. The included dust cover will prolong the life of your unit while you are renovating or completing your construction.
Easy battery backup activation and replacement – a pull tab let’s you activate the battery backup – on your time. That means you can install these on a new construction projects upon completion, and the battery shelf life only starts waning once activated.
Easy replacement – Twist off old unit and twist on the new unit onto the original base.
Locking pin – prevents the unauthorized removal of the battery making this unit perfect for dorm rooms and rental apartments.
What’s not to like? This is a product that connects to all bells and whistles for home safety.
Written by guest blogger Leanne Naidoo
When you ask people what they’d save in a fire, the answers are usually pretty obvious: kids, spouses, pets, photo albums, jewelry boxes – maybe even a laptop, if there were time and room enough to tuck it under your arm. Our instinct is to save the things dearest to us, or items we rely heavily on. It’s no too hard to name what you’d rescue in a house fire, but what if your business were to burn?
Among all of the critical business tools that you could lose in a fire, have you ever thought of the data and electrical cables that keep you powered and connected to the outside world? When large groupings of cable (like what you’d find filling a cable tray) ignite, they’re not only destroyed – they also pose a large flame-spread threat to the rest of your office or facility. Keep cables from catching fire or sustaining heat damage, and you’ll not only reduce your losses, you’ll spare yourself extra downtime, as well.
So now comes the big question: how do you prevent cables from igniting in the first place? The answer: SpecSeal® Flame Retardant Cable Spray from STI. This latex-based, asbestos- and halogen-free product is sprayed onto cables to create a thin, fire-resistant coating that prevents heat damage to cables, and lessens their chances of propagating flame spread.
SpecSeal® Cable Spray is specifically designed for cables that are/will be grouped together, and has been formulated in such a way that it won’t re-emulsify after initial drying (so once it’s dry, it stays dry, and won’t become tacky or sticky in the presence of humidity). It also maintains a decent degree of flexibility once it’s dry, so it isn’t difficult to remove or reconfigure cables post-application.
SpecSeal® Cable Spray contains no solvents, so there’s nothing in it that will break down cable jackets and insulation. It also contains a high proportion of solids, so it covers better than any other comparable product on the market. Just spray on an even coat with an airless sprayer, and take comfort in knowing that one of the most vital behind-the-scenes players in your business – your cabling system – is far better equipped to take the heat.
I’ve heard of (and been victim to) the notorious Pinch to Grow an Inch, but a pinch to stop a fire? No, I haven’t lost it – I’ve actually just come across some very interesting firestop products for use with plastic pipes: Z240 pipe collars from Abesco.
If you’re wondering what firestopping could possibly have to do with pipes, let me explain. Any point at which conduit, cables, pipes or ducts penetrate a wall, ceiling or floor is considered a weak spot from the fire safety standpoint – any type of hole or void in a structure constitutes a place through which flame and smoke can spread during a fire. The further flame and smoke spread, the more damage is done. That’s why code requires cable, conduit, pipe and duct penetrations to be sealed with intumescent material, which expands and hardens around the penetrant to seal out fire and fumes.
This is mostly done with duct wraps, fire caulks, and pipe collars. Standard pipe collars are made for use with metallic pipes, and focus on blocking flame spread through the gaps around the pipe. But what happens when your pipes are PVC or another type of plastic, and , unlike most metal pipes, run the risk of melting and deforming in the presence of intense heat and flame? In situations like this, your intumescent firestop needs to take things a few steps further.
That’s where the unique design and function of Abesco’s Z240 pipe collars come into play: designed specifically for use with plastic pipes, these intumescent collars expand to fill in not only the gap around the outside of pipes, but to actually pinch closed softening/melted pipes as well. This pinching action serves to fill in the structural hole left when the pipe gives way to the heat, and also to prevent flame from sneaking along and/or through the compromised pipe. It just clamps down, and that’s pretty much the end of things, at least from that end of the pipe.
I know I always write about specific products, but today I’m going to put the spotlight on an issue, instead: Carbon Monoxide Safety. As the weather gets chillier and we start to think about lighting cozy fires and nudging up the temps on our thermostats, it’s time to take the yearly measures to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
This starts with having one or more carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Lots of people have them these days, but there are still surprisingly many gamblers out there who still haven’t made the investment. No sure if you have one? Check your smoke alarms – many of them are now combo units, with carbon monoxide detection built in. But if you discover you’ve been going without, carbon monoxide detectors aren’t expensive, and they’re versatile and easy to come by. You can get fancy with a CO detector that networks with the other alarms in your home, or you can get a simple plug-in unit that plugs right into any power outlet, no hardwiring required. Whichever way you go, just make sure that you have at least one, and the detectors are located near potential CO sources (gas stoves, fireplaces, furnaces, gas-powered dryers, water heaters and attached garages) and your home’s bedrooms/sleeping areas.
Next comes the big test: does your carbon monoxide detector actually work? We recommend testing the alarm monthly, but that isn’t always an indicator of how well the actual detection equipment is working. Manufacturers generally specify how long a unit is good for – don’t hang onto a CO detector that has passed its prime, and if in doubt, stay on the safe side and buy a replacement. And even if you know that your carbon monoxide detectors are still within their recommended life spans, be sure to replace the batteries yearly, or more often if you hear the telltale chirp. We suggest changing the batteries on the same day that you set your clocks back – that way, you’ll be well-powered throughout Fall and Winter, which are crucial times for CO detection.
And last but definitely not least, have your fireplace cleaned and the flue/chimney checked for any signs of cracks, which can allow carbon monoxide that would otherwise be vented safely outside to seep back into your home on its way up the chimney. In addition, have a pro check your furnace and duct work for signs of soot, corrosion, and cracks or holes, any of which can signal a potential CO problem. And when you let your car warm up before leaving for work, make sure that it’s in open air, and not closed in the garage – carbon monoxide from the car’s exhaust can quickly build to dangerous levels, and possibly travel into attached living spaces.
Wow, so many warnings, so little blog space! For the full rundown, check out these Carbon Monoxide FAQs, and have a warm, cozy, and safe season!
Wow- it feels like lately, I can’t stop talking about fire protection products or Mike Holmes. Up to now, the two subjects have remained separate, but today, they’re colliding in this very blog post. Last week, I was watching yet another episode of Holmes on Homes during yet another treadmill workout, and one of Mike’s contractor pals took the trouble to wrap the backs of new electrical boxes with these flexible sheets of intumescent material, the kind that expands and hardens when exposed to fire, so that smoke and flame can’t spread too far from where they originate. Pretty neat stuff, considering that electrical wiring is a prime source of heat, sparks, and other nasty fire-starting things. Suffice it to say I was impressed at the contractor’s overall safety-mindedness and attention to detail.
Anyway, lo and behold, a few days later, I found out that we actually just started selling a product that’s very similar to the one used on the show. It’s called the Power Shield electrical box insert, and it’s perfect for maximizing the safety of outlet boxes, switches, and other electrical assemblies in fire-rated walls. And best of all, it’s super easy to use: just peel off the backing, and smooth the adhesive side of it against the rear wall of your electrical box. Once in place, it won’t cause any damage to your wiring (it’s non-conductive), and when exposed to fire, will have the ability to expand to up to 24 times its original size to contain flames and smoke.
“Put a cork in it!” We’ve all been on the receiving end of that one before (or maybe it’s just me?), and it’s pretty much universally recognized that that gem has everything to do with shutting the heck up. But I’m quite tickled to announce that it can now also be applied to firestopping, a field that, up until recently, has been depressingly lacking in vintage, funny-sounding commands. Not anymore.
Firestopping, if you’re not familiar with it, is the practice of blocking structural gaps (like the spaces where ductwork, pipe, and conduit pass through walls, floors and ceilings) with different intumescent materials (caulk, putty, spray foam, fire pillows and the like). Once the squishy stuff is worked into place, and sometimes left to cure, it’s able to expand to many times its original size when exposed to fire and dangerously high heat. This expansion fills all the gaps, and prevents flame and smoke from squeezing itself along pipes and ductwork and sneaking into other rooms or floors. In a nutshell, firestopping can be a major life- and building-saver.
But recall how I just referred to intumescent firestop materials as “the squishy stuff.” It’s often messy, and usually needs to be squeezed out of tubes, sprayed out of cans, or even troweled around. But STI Firestop was nice enough to come up with a clean one-piece flame-blocking product that won’t leave you having to hose yourself off post-application. You basically just put a cork in it, and call it a day.
The “cork” is actually STI’s intumescent firestop plug. It’s made out of polyurethane foam, which is neat and clean to the touch, but still able to swell to 10 times its normal size in the presence of fire. To install, you just squeeze it to fit into the end of a conduit run, push it into place, and then walk away. It’s even reusable, if it hasn’t intumesced – if you decide to use it somewhere else, just pull it out, and relocate it to wherever you need it. I don’t know about you, but with these late-breaking developments, I’ll gladly put a cork in it any day.
Filed under: Electrical, Fire Protection, Workplace Safety
I usually try to kick off my blog posts with an at least somewhat comical life observation, personal experience or childhood memory, but today I’m going to put all things quirky aside, and instead blog in all seriousness. Today, we’re talking about arc flash, an area in which I’m very grateful to have to no firsthand experience. In case you’re not too familiar with arc flash, it’s basically an industrial-strength electrical short that causes voltage from one conductor to spontaneously “arc” through the air to another exposed conductor. This arcing action can result in an extreme electrical explosion called an arc blast, which has the power to gravely injure, or even kill, anyone who happens to be nearby.
The explosion can generate a pressure wave that packs thousands of pounds per square inch, as well as temperatures up to 35,000°F. Force and temperatures of this magnitude can mean broken bones, collapsed lungs, ruptured eardrums, concussions, extensive third degree burns, and even damaged eyesight – and that’s if you’re lucky and it doesn’t just kill you on the spot. Arc blast can easily become personal tragedy, and there are electrical workers who face the risk of it every day.
Thanks to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and OSHA, electrical workers are now required to wear a range of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and flame retardant (FR) clothing to decrease their risk of injury should an arc blast occur in an area in which they’re working. Standard items of arc flash clothing include FR shirts, pants, and coveralls, arc flash hoods, face shields, safety goggle, ear protection, insulating rubber and leather gloves, and dielectric footwear made of rubber and/or leather. But while most arc flash PPE is intended to be worn, there’s one protective measure that you don’t actually put on: the arc protection blanket.
Arc protection blankets are generally made of heavy-duty canvas, and are intended to create a barrier between the arc explosion and the worker. Depending on the room or vault that the work is taking place in, arc protection blankets can either be suspended in various ways, or hung up against a wall. They’re particularly good for work in underground vaults, where they can be arranged like a makeshift funnel, to direct blast energy up and out of the chamber. Arc blast blankets not only have the ability to direct blast flow, but are also able to absorb impact and contain flames to a certain degree. And while they may not be completely foolproof (nothing is, when it comes to arc flash), when used in conjunction with regular arc flash PPE, they can leave you a lot better off than you’d be if you hadn’t used one.
Despite seasonal clues like the the blizzard that just hit the Mid-Atlantic states and the fact that it was the Super Bowl only last night, I keep forgetting that it’s winter. But then again, I’m in South Florida, and we have more or less constant heat and sunshine no matter what time of year it is. But temperatures took a bit of a dive this past weekend, as I schlepped armloads of Target bags into the house late yesterday afternoon, my nostrils perked up at the scent of fireplace wafting on the breeze. Now that’s a rare treat, and one that reminded me that people in many other places are cozied up to fireplaces and space heaters to stay warm. And if there’s any time of year to be concerned about fire safety, this would be it.
So, what shape are your smoke alarms in? Hopefully you’ve been testing them monthly, and replacing their batteries once a year. A gentle annual vacuuming is always a good idea, too. But if it’s time to actually replace your smoke detectors, allow me to make a suggestion. Go with a combination model, like the Ionization/Photelectric Smoke Alarm from Kidde. Why the mix of technology? Two words: complete protection.
If you’ve ever shopped around for household smoke detectors, you probably noticed that the alarms were labeled either ionization or photoelectric. These two technologies were designed to recognize two different types of fires. Ionization smoke alarms detect the presence of smoke by ionizing the nitrogen and oxygen atoms in air, and are best for warning against quick-flaring fires that pop up fast without producing much smoke. On the other hand, photoelectric smoke alarms are optical, and use LEDs and photosensors to detect smoke-induced light obstruction. Photoelectric alarms are best at detecting slow-burning fires that produce large amounts of smoke.
Now, don’t get me wrong – it’s great to have options. But what if you don’t choose the right one? The beautiful thing about combination smoke alarms is that with dual technology, they’re able to handle just about any smoke situation that comes their way. You’re warned no matter what. No second-guessing, no trial and error – when it comes to fire and smoke inhalation, you never want to learn the hard way.
Up until a couple of years ago, when I was involved with a home remodel that involved a lot of recessed lighting, I never really thought about the fire risk involved. I’ve always liked recessed high-hats, but my musings about them pretty much always went along the lines of: “Wow, those look nice,” and “When will I be able to afford lighting like that?” On the other hand, watching them being installed makes you realize a couple of things that should be, but often aren’t, obvious characteristics of can light fixtures.
First of all, when they run for any length of time, lightbulbs get hot. Which brings me to my second point: when it comes to recessed lighting, all of that bulb-generated heat is building up inside your ceiling. See any potential for problems there? To be fair, can lights are called “can lights” because they’re enclosed in a (you guessed it) can-like structure that provides a measure of safety by isolating the hot bulb from surrounding building materials. But once in a while, a recessed lighting fire does break out, and it’s a smart idea to have some backup in place just in case that flaming light fixture happens to be in your home or business.
That’s where Tenmat fire-rated lighting covers come in handy. These cup-shaped mineral fiber coverings actually fit around each high hat, to provide extra insulation between light fixtures and ceiling materials. And in the event that fire does occur, they intumesce (that is, expand and char upon exposure to high heat) to seal out smoke and prevent your ceiling from igniting. It’s a simple preventive measure to take, but it can ultimately prevent or greatly reduce fire spread and structural damage.
You’ve heard of firestopping caulk and foam, but… pillows? Yes, you read that correctly. Pillows. Namely 3M™ Fire Barrier Pillows, little bundles of intumescent material that can be used to fill in and firestop larger wall penetrations, like the ones you get when you run exceptionally large cable trays from one room to the next. These are what you turn to when gaps are so big that soft materials like foam and caulk just don’t have the structural integrity to do the job – as a matter of fact, they’re UL listed to firestop openings up to 540 square inches.
Installing 3M™ Fire Barrier Pillows is a no-mess project – just fit enough into the gap to completely close it , and you’re done. Unless gaps that are too small to be filled by the smallest size pillow remain, there’s no need for caulk, putty, or other conformable firestop products. Fire Barrier pillows have a 3-hour flame rating, and they’re super easy to replace after a fire – there’s no need to scrape charred material out if the penetration gap. Just pull out the spent pillows and pop in new ones whenever you need to.