Smoke Alarms

Your first defense against fire...

A working smoke alarm can detect a small fire and provide crucial minutes necessary to prevent a tragedy from occurring in your home. Over 94% of all homes in the U.S. have at least one smoke alarm. However, surveys show that 1/3 - 1/2 of them do not work because the battery is either missing or dead.

  • Every 2 hours someone dies in a fire
  • Smoke, not heat, is the leading cause of death in home fires
  • Children and the elderly are at twice the risk of dying or being injured in a home fire
  • Most home fires occur during sleeping hours -- between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am.
Types of Smoke Alarms

  • Ionization Alarms: Monitor "ions," or electrically charged particles in the air and responds best to quick burning fires from paper and drapes.
  • Photoelectric Alarms: Respond to slow burning fires such as smoldering mattresses and upholstery. The alarm goes off when smoke particles break a light beam. These alarms are less likely to have false alarms.
  • Heat Alarms: Use a special metal that melts or distorts when heat enters the air around it.
  • Power Sources
  • Hard wired: Permanently wired into home's electrical system with battery backup.
  • Battery operated: Have batteries that last about 1 year.

  • Place a smoke alarm on each level of your home, near bedrooms or sleeping areas, and in the basement.
  • Avoid installing alarms near the kitchen, bathroom, outside doors, or fireplace.
  • Follow all of the smoke alarm's recommended installation procedures.

  • Wall mounted: Install so the top of the alarm is 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling. Avoid corners.
  • Open stairways: Install the smoke alarm in the path of the smoke that would be traveling up stairs.
  • Closed stairway: Position the smoke alarm at the bottom of the stairs because of the dead space at the top of the stairs could prevent the alarm from sounding.
  • Ceiling mounted: Install at least 4 inches from the nearest wall or corner to avoid dead space where air is trapped. In rooms with a vaulted ceiling, install the alarm at the highest point.

  • Replace batteries on twice a year. (Time change, 4th of July and Christmas, Birthdays)
  • Test smoke alarm once a month. (First day, Last day, First Monday)
  • Vacuum the alarm to remove any sensor blocking material. (2 to 3 times a year)
  • Never paint a smoke alarm
  • Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.
You have nearly a 50% better chance of surviving a house fire with a working smoke alarm.

 NFPA Web Site