Smoke Alarms: What You Need To Know

Fire is the second leading cause of unintentional death in the home. Each year, more than 3,700 people die in residential fires and smoke is responsible for three out of four deaths. Many fires are the direct result of carelessness. A number of household items are usually the cause, including clothes dryers, electrical hazards, careless cooking, candles, smoking, and fires started by children. Many can be prevented with the use of a functioning smoke detector.

About 90 percent of U.S. households have smoke detectors installed. However, a consumer product safety commission survey found that the smoke detectors in 20 percent of those households - about 16 million - were not working, mostly because the battery was dead or missing.
Smoke detectors can save lives, but they will not work if they are not maintained.

Facts about smoke alarms:

1. Protect yourself and your family.
Most fire deaths occur in homes where there are no working smoke alarms. Remember, only a working smoke alarm can save your life.
2. Smoke alarms save lives.
Most fatal fires occur at night when people are asleep. Often, victims never wake up. A working smoke alarm will detect smoke and sound an alarm to alert you, giving you precious time to escape.
3. Buying the best alarm.
There are many types of smoke alarms, each with different features. Alarms can be electrically connected, battery powered or a combination of both. 
4. One smoke alarm is not enough.
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home and near sleeping areas. If you or your loved ones sleep with bedroom doors closed, install an alarm inside each bedroom.
5. Where to install smoke alarms.
Because smoke rises, you should place alarms on the ceiling. If you cannot do this, place them high up on a wall, according to manufacturer's instructions. There are certain locations to avoid such as near bathrooms, heating appliances, windows, or close to ceiling fans.
6. Test your smoke alarm regularly.
Every month, test your smoke alarms, using the alarm test button. Once a month test your alarms using smoke from a smoldering cotton string. Follow your owner's manual.
7. Change your clock, change your battery.
Install a new battery of the proper type at least once a year. If the low battery warning beeps, replace the battery immediately. We change our clocks each spring and fall so this is a good time to change your smoke alarm batteries too.
8. Smoke alarms do not last forever.
Smoke alarms do wear out, so if you think your alarms are more than 10 years old, replace them with new ones.
9. Plan your escape.
Make sure that everyone knows the sound of the smoke alarm and what to do if a fire occurs. Regularly practice your home fire escape plan. Know two ways out of every room and have a pre-arranged meeting place outside. Once out, stay out and call the fire department from a neighbor's home.
10. To stay safe follow these tips:

  • Install a smoke detector within 15 feet of all sleeping areas.
  • Install a smoke detector on each level of your home.
  • Check smoke detector batteries weekly and replace when the battery becomes low, or at least twice a year when you change your clocks.
  • Never remove the battery without replacing it.
  • Never use a smoke detector battery for other uses.
  • When traveling, take a smoke detector with you for your family's safety.