Enjoying a healthier, smoke-free lifestyle is one of the many fine advantages of using a vape. Although vaping presents a better alternative to cigarettes, there have been a few concerns about how well it performs in closed spaces. Is it safe to use, and can using a vape indoors trigger a smoke alarm?
Generally, good vaporizers are designed to be safe and easy to use in any environment. But, there can be a few exceptions, and this isn’t just about the vapes, but also about the smoke alarms themselves.
The South West Airline Incident
One of the most touted incidences cited on this topic is the commotion caused by a vaping passenger on a Baltimore-bound flight in 2014.
South West Airlines Flight 3654 from Florida to Baltimore was forced to make an emergency landing when its fire alarm went off midair. The trigger for the alarm was an unlikely cause. A passenger, pressed by nicotine withdrawal symptoms, decided against better judgment to go take a hit from his vape in the airplane bathroom. This unfortunate decision triggered the fire alarm, forced an emergency landing and made headline news.
But how did vapor trigger a smoke alarm?
Conventional knowledge says that vapor can’t set off fire alarms, but that’s a bit extreme, as we have seen from the above incident and a few others not mentioned. The argument in favor of vapor says that because smoke alarms are designed to detect smoke and not vapor, it is very unlikely for vapor from nicotine vaporizers to trigger a smoke alarm. Also, it is argued that vapor dissipates a lot faster than smoke, meaning it is more likely to breakdown as it floats in the environment.
While we can agree that cases of vapes setting off fire alarms are rare and far between, it is not out of place to say that there are certain conditions that can cause vapor from a vape to set off a fire alarm. One of the most common conditions is the presence of flavoring particles and compounds like propylene glycol in e-liquids that make the vapor from vaporizers quite dense and larger than the average steam particles. These particles can create a cloud that is big enough to mimic smoke.
We reckon that it’s likely the same thing that happened on the South West Airlines flight 3654. The tight space and the obvious fact that the vaper had most likely been smoking too close to the alarm, creating large clouds that were too close for comfort, must have created a lot of vapor condensation enough to set off the fire safety alarm. So, while it is very rare for e-cigarette to set off the average fire alarm, it is still a possibility. And in fact, there are a few fire alarms that are quite vulnerable to vapor.
Some fire alarms that are vulnerable to vapor
There are a couple of fire alarms in use that are more susceptible to vapor. These alarms are quite small and sensitive, and they are more than likely to blare out if you use an e-cigarette within the close spaces where they are installed.
- Ionization Alarms: The Ionization alarm is designed to operate on a system of electrically charged plates. Electrical charges are passed between plates in close proximity. When smoke particles enter the alarm, they can disrupt the electric charges between the plates, setting off the alarm.
- Optical Alarms: The Optical alarm works in a very simple format. The optical alarm beams infrared light to a light detector and if this Ray is disturbed, the alarm is triggered. Usually smoke particles can deflect the light beam away from the light detector and this would trigger a response - the alarm.
- Heat Alarms: These alarms are more susceptible to heat than smoke, which is why they are mostly found in use in kitchens and in areas where combustible products are stored.
Most smoke alarms are optical and ionization alarms.
How to vape without setting off a fire alarm
Before we go into some of the steps you can take to vape safely, it is instructive to note that you should never vape in places where it is strictly forbidden, and this includes in some public spaces, public transport, and, of course, on airplanes. Being discreet and responsible are some of the hallmarks of good vaping behavior, and we expect that much from you.
With that sorted out, let’s get into the meat of how you can avoid the embarrassment of being called out for your vaping habit by a blaring fire alarm;
- Blow away from the smoke alarm: If you must vape in a closed space with a smoke or fire detector, the smart thing to do is to always blow away from the alarm. This practice reduces the likelihood of your indulgence setting off a false stampede. And if your desk or rest area is in the same location as the alarm, it is often a good idea to either seek alternative locations to get your groove on or relocate your desk or comfort divan.
- Open the window: A classic style that always works. Open windows mean better airflow, and with better airflow, the less likely it is for your session to trigger an alarm. The airflow dissipates the vapor quickly before it reaches the alarm.
- Use a discreet device: We would recommend using a device that doesn’t attract a lot of attention. Low power devices, disposables, and the like are less likely to create large enough vapor to cause a stir. There are tons of pen-style devices and closed pod systems that produce satisfying mouth-to-lung vaping experiences without the obvious large vapor production. The CLVR vape range is a fine example of these sorts of vapes.
As you should know by now, vaping can trigger smoke alarms; we don’t expect you to be fooled by the rhetoric. It is best to not indulge in an environment with alarms installed, but if you must, then you should choose only discreet devices or sub-ohm packs that won’t cause a stir. You can also make vape products from the CLVR brand your best choice. They are discreet and won’t get you in trouble for starting a fire stampede.