Emphasize Smoke Alarm Installation and Maintenance

Courtesy of the U.S. Fire Administration

When you are asleep, how will you know if a fire starts in your home? Will you wake up in enough time to escape? Working smoke alarms help give you and your family more time to escape in the event of a fire.

Every year, approximately 3,500 people in the U.S. die in home fires; many of these fatalities can be prevented. Working smoke alarms help save lives, cutting the risk of dying in a home fire in half. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) urges people to install and maintain smoke alarms in every home.

Inexpensive smoke alarms are available for purchase in many stores and fire departments often offer reduced cost or free smoke alarms. Several types of smoke alarms are available. An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. These single detection smoke alarms work better in different circumstances. For the best protection or where extra time is needed to awaken or assist others, both types of alarms or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms, also known as dual-sensor smoke alarms, are recommended.

Smoke Alarm Installation

It is important to have more than one smoke alarm in every home, no matter the size. Smoke alarms should be installed in every sleeping room, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement. Larger homes may require additional smoke alarms to provide a minimum level of protection. For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home; that way if one sounds, they all sound. Wireless battery-operated interconnected smoke alarms are now available.

Smoke alarms should be installed away from the kitchen to prevent false alarms. Generally, they should be at least 10 feet (three meters) from a cooking appliance. Never remove smoke alarms while cooking.

Testing and Maintenance

Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button. Make sure everyone in the home understands the warning of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.

To keep smoke alarms working well, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. The instructions are included in the package, or can be found on the Internet.

People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Smoke alarms and alert devices, called accessories, are available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Strobe lights and pillow or bed shakers are available for people who are deaf. Accessories for people who are hard of hearing produce a loud, mixed low-pitched sound.

Battery Replacement

Smoke alarms with non-replaceable (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away. For smoke alarms with any other type of battery, replace batteries at least once a year. If that alarm chirps, replace only the battery.

Smoke Alarm Replacement

Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.

To learn more about smoke alarms, visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s web site at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/campaigns/smokealarms/alarms/index.shtm.

Fire Corps teams can help residents in their community protect their homes from fire by requesting free smoke alarms through the Fire Corps smoke alarm donation program, sponsored by First Alert. Registered Fire Corps programs can apply to receive up to 12 dual sensor smoke alarms, or 24 photo smoke alarms, or 24 ion smoke alarms to install in your community. To take advantage of this donation program, fill out the Smoke Alarm Request form. Additional resources for your department’s smoke alarm check and installation campaign can be found at www.soundthealarmtoday.org.