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City of Bryan, Texas



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Fire Safety and Prevention / After the Fire

Smoke Detector Basics

There are thousands of deaths each year across the United States due to fires, but fire is not what usually causes these deaths.  It is the smoke that fire produces that causes death.  Many people think that they will be able to smell the smoke while they are sleeping or feel the heat from the fire.  Our bodies are wonderfully made and we have a great cooling system that does not require us to do anything to maintain our body temperature.  Our body senses the heat and immediately our natural cooling system goes to work and when we finally sense the heat is too great, the time to escape has almost been eliminated.  Also our noses that do a wonderful job of smelling while we are awake have a sleep mode of their own.  When we finally do smell the smoke we have taken in quite a bit of poisonous gases caused by fire and our ability to get out has been greatly diminished.  Smoke detectors give us an early warning increasing the amount of time we have to get out of the house alive.  The smoke detectors must be placed where they can alert us and tested frequently to ensure functionality.

Smoke Detectors

There are two major types of smoke detectors.  The first is an ionization detector which contains a small amount of radioactive material.  This material sends a small electrical current to an electrode across a gap.  When smoke enters the gap between these electrodes it causes a disturbance in the current flow.  This disturbance causes the detector to go into alarm.

The second type of smoke detector is a photoelectric detector.  This type has a beam of light emitted inside the detector and a photocell.  When smoke enters this detector the beam of light is deflected and this deflection is detected by the photocell causing the alarm to sound.


We recommend having a detector in each sleeping area and the hallway that leads from these rooms to an exit and on each floor or level in the home.  Smoke detectors also go into alarm at different times so having many and different types of detectors will give you the best chance of an early warning.


Many detectors now can be part of the house wiring system with a battery back up or have a battery only to power them.  The detectors with batteries need to be checked often and the battery replaced every 6 months.  We recommend replacing the battery when we change our clocks in the spring and fall to help us remember to do it.  You can also vacuum it to keep the dust from causing false alarms.  When the battery does wear out it will emit a chirp to let you know the battery is dying.  Just replace the battery and it will function fine again.  Like everything detectors will wear out and need to be replaced.  If when you test the alarm, it makes a strange sound (weoooweoo) or no sound replace the battery.  If there is still no sound or a strange sound replace the detector.

Exit Drills In The Home

It’s important for family members to know two routes out of every room in the house in case there is ever a fire, and practicing those routes is just as important. Home exit drills save lives. The first step is to develop an emergency escape plan.

  1. Appoint someone in the family to act as “Fire Chief”.
  2. Determine a primary route and an emergency route out of every room in the house.
  3. Decide on a meeting place outside the house such as near the mailbox.
  4. Draw a picture of each floor in your home showing the rooms, doors, windows and halls. Color the regular escape routes black and the emergency escape routes red. Place copies of the picture where everyone can see them.

After you have an emergency escape plan, the next step is the drill itself.

  1. Decide what the signal will be to start the emergency exit drill.
  2. Everyone goes to their own bedrooms.
  3. The Fire Chief gives the signal for the drill to begin.
  4. Another family member repeats the signal.
  5. Everyone closes the door between their room and their primary escape route.
  6. Everyone leaves the house by their emergency exit route.
  7. The Fire Chief brings the family together again. S/he stresses the importance of remaining calm, closing doors and testing doors to closed rooms for heat before opening them.
  8. Review the escape route picture with everyone, verifying that the stated escape routes are the best ways out of the house.

After the Fire: Returning to Normal

A fire can be a devastating event, and getting back to normal can be a challenge. Just knowing where to start can even be very difficult.

The Bryan Fire Department has compiled a document that will help you start on your road to recovery after a fire. This document will give you the basic information you’ll need to begin the process of rebuilding and returning to normal.

Click here for the Document in PDF form

This document includes:

  • Contact numbers for various governmental and other organizations that may be of assistance
  • Safety precautions in the immediate aftermath and explainers on why and how the fire department takes certain actions
  • Procedures for cleaning up after a fire
  • Warnings on what NOT to do.
  • Information for emergency assistance
  • Information on disposal of fire-damaged materials