Smoke alarms have been the main factor in reducing house fire deaths by half since the late 1970’s.  Smoke alarms are now found in almost 95% of homes.  And a working smoke alarm can reduce the risk of death from residential fires by 50 to 70%.  About half of residential fire deaths occur in homes without an operational alarm.  This not only includes homes without alarms, but also homes with alarms that DON’T WORK.  In fact, about 20 to 30% of alarms in homes are not operating because the alarm is not working correctly, or the batteries are dead or have been removed, or the system has been disconnected from the power source.  In newer homes, smoke alarms have no batteries but are connected to the electrical system.  Indeed, the national fire code now requires smoke alarms in new homes to be hard-wired.

To get the most protection from your smoke alarm:

  • Make sure there’s a smoke alarm on each level of your residence, especially in or near every sleeping area.
  • Install alarms high on walls or ceilings (smoke rises).  If the alarm is on the ceiling, it should be at the highest point and at least 4 inches away from the wall.
  • Don’t mount alarms near windows, doors or ducts, where drafts can interfere with smoke detection.
  • Replace the batteries every six months (or if the device chirps).  Pick a date you’ll remember, such as the day you switch to/from daylight savings time.
  • Press the test button on the alarm periodically to make sure if works (you may want to wear ear plugs).
  • Replace any smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old.  Newer models may cause fewer nuisance alarms.