Smoke Alarms in the Home

Living in a home without smoke detectors is risky business!

When fire occurs in your home, your chances for survival are two times better when smoke alarms are present than when they are not.
Smoke alarms, when properly installed and maintained (following the manufacturer's directions), provide an early warning when fires occur. Early warnings increases your chances for survival and allows the fire department to save more of your property.

In support of smoke alarm effectiveness, many cities and states have laws requiring the installation of smoke alarms in dwellings. Check with your local fire department or State Fire Marshal for further information.

Time is crucial. Most fatal fires occur between midnight and 8 AM. Many fire victims die in their sleep from breathing smoke and toxic fire gases. When your smoke alarm sounds, you may have 2 and a half minutes or less to escape. Develop and practice a home escape plan.

Installation of smoke alarms

  • Electric smoke alarms should be connected to a lighting circuit with no intervening switches. For this, you may need an electrician. Connections using extension-type cords are not permitted.
  • Battery-operated models should sound an alert or beeping sound when batteries need replacing. A smoke alarm with dead batteries or whose batteries have been removed is no protection at all.
  • Dual-power models are available which are electrically powered but contain a battery back-up should there be a power failure.
  • Use only those alarms bearing the label of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM). The ceiling is the best mounting location at least six inches away from any walls. If alarms are mounted on the wall, keep them away from corners and at least 6 inches, but no more than 12 inches, from the ceiling to the bottom of the alarm.

Help save your life and property from fire

  • For minimum protection, install a smoke alarm outside each bedroom or sleeping area in your home and keep your bedroom doors closed while you are asleep.
  • Keep your smoke alarms properly maintained. Test them at least once each month to insure that alarms are working properly. Batteries in battery-operated alarms should be changed at least once yearly. Use only the type of batteries recommended for the alarm.
  • If your smoke alarm sounds when no smoke is present, consult with the manufacturer or with your local fire department. If smoke from cooking materials causes the alarm to activate, do not remove the batteries or disconnect the power source. Simply fan the smoke away from the alarm until the alarm stops. If this happens frequently, it may be necessary to relocate the alarm or to install a different type of alarm.
  • Develop an escape plan and review the plan with all members of the family frequently. Be aware that children and elderly people may need special assistance should fire occur. Establish a meeting place outside the house for all members of the family to ensure that everyone gets out of the house. Use a neighbor's telephone to notify the fire department.

Additional tips

  • If your smoke alarm doesn't work properly, the silence could be deadly.
  • Test your smoke alarm at least once a month.
  • Clean your alarm at least once a year. Dust with a vacuum cleaner.
  • Replace the battery each year. Use the battery type listed on the alarm.

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