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How to dispose of your old smoke alarm

The two types of residential smoke alarms that are most commonly used in the United States are ionization and photoelectric. Photoelectric-type smoke alarms contain a very tiny amount of radioactive material.  Combination smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors, also contain a very tiny amount of radioactive material.  Although some state regulations allow you to simply throw these smoke alarms in the trash, you will still need to remove the batteries from the alarm.

How to tell if your smoke detector contains radioactive material: 

If a smoke detector contains radioactive material, it is required by law to have a warning label on the body of the smoke detector.  The label is usually located at the “top” of the detector, facing the mounting base that attaches to the ceiling or wall.  Remove the smoke detector from its base, and look at the label.  A typical label might read:

This product is designed to detect products of combustion using ionization technology.  It contains 0.9 microcurie of Americium 241, a radioactive material

The label may have the international symbol for radiation on the label.

International Radiation Symbol

If a smoke detector does not include either the warning or the radiation symbol on the label, and if there is no evidence that the label has been removed or destroyed, it is safe to assume that the device does not contain any radioactive material.  If the label has been removed or destroyed, it is best to treat the device as if it is an ionization unit, and dispose of it as described below.

Here are the three ways to dispose of your smoke alarms:

  1. If allowed in your area, remove the batteries and wrap the unit in newspaper.  You then are able to throw the smoke alarm in the trash.*
  2. If accepted in your area, take to a local Recycling Center, or take to a Hazardous Material Waste Center.*
  3. Ionization smoke alarms and combination smoke alarms can be sent back to the manufacturer.  They have the proper equipment to safely dispose of the smoke alarms.
*Please check with state or local municipal or household hazardous waste authorities. 
Caution: Ionization smoke alarms should never be opened.  If you are unable to get the batteries out of the alarm without opening it, please use option 2 or 3.

For more information on the proper disposal of smoke alarms please refer to one of the sites below or check with your state or local authorities.

U.S. Fire Administration

EPA

smoke alarm detector

 

How can your business prepare for a weather emergency?

With this being national lightening safety week I thought you might want a few tips on how to prepare your business for a weather emergency.

Here are some tips we recommend:

Make sure you have an updated disaster plan:
Much like having an emergency plan for the home to protect your family, your business should also have an updated plan of action in case of an emergency. This includes having a designated employee evacuation plan as well as good two-way communication during and after a disaster. A good tip is to set up a telephone calling tree or call-in voice recording so you can stay in touch with employees during and after the disaster.

Make sure you have proper data storage solutions:
Where is your sensitive business data stored? Does it live on a hard drive or server and is potentially susceptible to wind, water or fire damage during a storm? A solution for keeping your data safe is by storing it in the cloud. Cloud computing has come a long way, and will insure your data is safe from any malicious weather Mother Nature doles out. Another good idea is to have multiple back-ups. If there’s an off chance one data location is damaged, you’ll have another copy elsewhere that can be restored. At the very least, keep all sensitive data and important records in a fire/water-proof storage container.

Make sure you have an proper emergency kit:
Many businesses realize that they should have a readily available emergency kit,  but often overlook the survival basics: fresh water, food, clean air and warmth. As a business owner, you should not only prepare an emergency kit for the office, but also encourage each employee to create their own kit customized to meet their individual needs. For example, an employee may be diabetic, so he or she should have an emergency kit with the proper medication. Here are a few items that should be in every emergency kit:

  • Weather Radio – preferably one that operates via hand crank
  • Extra Batteries
  • Water – if possible, one gallon per person per day
  • Food – minimum of a three-day supply
  • First Aid Kit
  • Whistle – great for signaling for help
  • Blankets

If you are not sure that your business is properly prepared for a weather emergency talk to your safety coordinator or call American Fire & Security at 877-237-8918.

Stay Safe!

The Security Girl

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