Do I Need a Smoke Alarm?

More than half of all fatal home fires strike when people are asleep. The sooner a sleeping person wakes up and reacts, the greater his or her chances are of surviving the fire. Smoke alarms can cut your risk of dying in a fire nearly in half. Fire safety experts consider smoke alarms to be the most effective low cost early warning device available. They are easy to acquire and simple to install and maintain. Most people who die in home fires don't die in the room where the fire began. Smoke alarms alert you to developing fires, even in far away rooms, and give you time to escape.

Choosing Your Alarm
  • Be sure the smoke alarm you buy bears the label of an independent testing lab.
  • Some alarms run on household current and include battery backup, which require professional installation.
  • Some alarms run just on batteries which you can usually install yourself.
  • Some alarms have "10-year" lithium batteries that are intended to last the life of the smoke alarm.
  • Some alarms use an "ionization" type smoke sensing system; others use "photoelectric" sensors. Both types offer adequate protection.
  • Some alarms have "hush" buttons so you can deactivate them if cooking fumes or steam set off a "nuisance alarm." These models reactivate automatically after 8 to 10 minutes.
  • For the hearing-impaired, some alarms flash a strobe-like light.
Placing Your Alarms
  • Install alarms on every floor of your home, including the basement.
  • Install an alarm outside each sleeping area, inside as well if people sleep with their doors closed.
  • On floors without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room and/or near the stairways to the upper level.
  • Don't install alarms closer than 3 feet from a kitchen or bathroom door.
  • Don't install alarms in locations where the temperature may be too low or too high.
  • When installing an alarm to a wall, position the top of the alarm 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling.
  • When installing an alarm to a ceiling, position the alarm at least 4 inches away from the nearest wall. In a room with a pitched ceiling, mount the alarm at or near the ceiling's highest point.
Maintaining Your Alarms
  • Always save and follow the manufacturer's instructions for testing and maintenance.
  • Test alarms monthly.
  • Replace batteries at least once a year - for example, when you set the clocks back in the fall - or whenever an alarm "chirps" to tell you the battery is low.
  • Replace any smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old.
  • Clean your alarms regularly, following manufacturer's instructions. You can sometimes use a vacuum cleaner without removing the detector's cover.
  • Never paint a smoke alarm.