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What Will Set Off My Fire Sprinkler or Fire Alarm?

Last Updated: February 11, 2019

If you smoke conventional cigarettes or vaporizers, or you routinely light candles or incense, you might be wondering if it’s safe to light up near a smoke detector or fire sprinkler head. Could the smoke, vapor, or heat set off the fire alarm or sprinkler system? Get the answers to your questions here.

Can Cigarette Smoke Set off My Fire Alarm?

In short, yes, it can. But reports of cigarette smoke triggering a fire alarm are rare. After all, the smoke from a single cigarette is relatively insignificant and dissipates quickly.

However, because smoking is now prohibited in most public buildings, modern smoke detectors are more sensitive than models from years past. This allows them to detect fires faster, but it also makes them more vulnerable to going off because of cigarette smoke.

False alarms aside, we highly recommend only smoking outdoors. Not only does cigarette smoke impair indoor air quality, but it also increases the risk of an accidental fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 17,200 home structure fires broke out in 2014 as a result of poorly extinguished smoking materials, including cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. These fires caused 570 deaths, 1,140 injuries, and $426 million in direct property damage.

Smoking outside eliminates the risk of accidentally setting your bedding or carpet on fire. Make sure you dispose of cigarette butts safely by wetting them before placing them in the trash.

Can Vapor from E-Cigarettes Set off My Fire Alarm?

As you may be aware, e-cigarettes produce vapor instead of smoke. Nevertheless, they can still trigger a smoke detector. This is because smoke alarms detect airborne particles of any kind. In the case of ionization smoke detectors, the alarm triggers when particles disrupt the flow of electricity. Optical smoke alarms activate when particles scatter an infrared light beam.

For this reason, even excessive dust or shower steam can set off a fire alarm. That’s why smoke detectors should never be installed in the bathroom. Having said that, vaping is still unlikely to set off the fire alarm. If only one or two people are using e-cigarettes, and you don’t blow the vapor directly at a smoke detector, you have little to fear.

Can Smoke from Candles or Incense Set off My Fire Alarm?

If you love the smell of scented candles or incense sticks, you may be concerned about the potential for setting off the smoke detector. As with cigarettes and vaporizers, it’s unlikely that a single candle or incense stick will trigger the fire alarm, especially if you keep them away from the smoke detector.

Of course, there are instances where these products produce enough smoke to cause a problem. Take this story where a 90-year-old woman’s birthday candles set off the fire alarm when she blew out all 90 of them. Non-smoking college dorm rooms also tend to have hyper-sensitive smoke alarms, which could be triggered by burning incense or blowing out a candle.

Can Burning Food Set off My Fire Alarm?

This one is a definite yes. Everything from charred popcorn to burned bacon grease can set off a smoke detector, even if there isn’t a discernible amount of smoke. To prevent this, never leave food cooking unattended. Also, run the kitchen exhaust fan to draw smoke and fumes to the exterior. If the fire alarm starts blaring, open a window and aim a fan at the smoke detector until it stops.

What About My Fire Sprinklers?

While there’s a small chance of setting off your fire alarm while smoking, vaping, cooking, or burning candles or incense, rest assured that these items won’t set off the fire sprinklers. The only exception to this statement is if you hold a lighter or candle flame directly up to a sprinkler head.

After all, contrary to popular belief, sprinkler heads are not set off by smoke—or vapor, for that matter. Instead, they are triggered by heat. The air rising to the ceiling must reach a fire-specific temperature between 155 and 165 degrees to burst the glass bulb inside and send water flowing out of the sprinkler head.

You can also relax knowing that, unlike in the movies, sprinkler heads activate one at a time. They act as individual heat detectors, not interconnected smoke detectors the way fire alarms operate. This means if a fire does break out or high heat activates one head for some reason, water damage will remain at a minimum.

Request Fire Protection Services in the Mid-South

State Systems is a fire protection company providing services throughout the Mid-South. If your business is located in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, or Alabama, we can provide you with essential fire protection measures to keep your building safe.

To find out more about our fire protection products and services, please contact us at 901-531-6550.

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