In 2004, there were 1.56 million fires attended by fire departments across the United States, with more than a half-million taking place within a structure of some type. An overwhelming majority of them, 410,500 to be exact (78 percent), took place in a home, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) of Quincy, Mass.
From a life-safety standpoint, lighting can be a tremendous help to family members trying to escape a burning home. Home lighting control is also a great add-on to any home alarm system. It provides benefits that go well beyond the obvious, providing homeowners with greater convenience while improving crime deterrence, personal safety and homeowner survivability when there’s a fire.
This month, we will explain the basic reasons why security dealers should offer their residential clients lighting control. We will cover the life-safety aspects as well as those associated with crime prevention, convenience and personal safety. We will also discuss ways in which home lighting systems can be interfaced with combination alarm control panels for both automated and manual response.
Lighting Vital for Exiting Home Fires
One way to make egress faster during the initial stages of a home fire is to turn on select lights that lead to exit points throughout the home.
“Having the lights come on [especially in exit routes] on activation of a smoke alarm [or other device] would have a great deal of potential to save lives. Even if it were a bit smoky in the house, the lights would improve visibility greatly and allow people to move quickly,” says Doug Sanders with the Office of the Fire Commissioner of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
“I also think it would identify more readily places not to go,” he continues. “In the dark, a person would not see smoke and may walk into a cloud of it. Smoke is CO [and soot and other gases], and CO causes people not to think very clearly, even at low levels. The lights would help people escape and to avoid smoke.”
What’s it like to grope your way through thick toxic smoke as a fire rages behind you? Some who have lived to tell the tale liken it to breathing fire while trying to navigate through the blackest, thickest darkness you’ll ever encounter.
“The door opens and the hot smoke hits the cooler air and banks down. The smoke is right to the floor and using a flashlight is like using high beams driving in the fog. It’s not useless, it’s worse than useless,” says Sanders. “A thousand thoughts cross your mind as you move through the house, using the clues available to tell you what you need to know. The focus is on finding the fire and any occupants.”
Introducing light into the home at such a critical time can provide those few extra seconds that so often mean life or death. Having the benefit of house lights to show the way to exit points can impact the final outcome.
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