Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you are sleeping or awake, smoke alarms are constantly on the alert, scanning the air for smoke. The following statistics emphasize the importance of working smoke alarms in your home:
- Three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms
- More than one-third (38 percent) of home fire deaths result from fires in which no smoke alarms are present.
- The risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms.
In order for smoke alarms to do their job, it is important they are properly installed and maintained. Here are a few tips from the United States Fire Administration (USFA):
Smoke Alarm Installation
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement.
- Because many fatal fires begin late at night or early in the morning, the USFA recommends installing smoke alarms inside and outside of sleeping areas.
- Smoke and deadly gases rise, so it is important to install smoke alarms at the proper level to ensure the earliest warning possible.
- Hardwired smoke alarms should be installed by a qualified electrician.
Smoke Alarm Maintenance
- Test the alarm monthly.
- Replace the batteries once per year.*
- Replace the entire smoke alarm unit once every 8 to 10 years.
Never Disable a Smoke Alarm
A smoke alarm is just doing its job if it sounds while you are cooking or taking a hot shower with a lot of steam. Disabling a smoke alarm or removing the battery can be a deadly mistake. Rather than removing the battery, here are a few tips for silencing the alarm:
- Open a window or door and press the “hush” button.
- Wave a towel near the alarm to clear the air.
- If the alarm is not hard-wired, move the entire alarm several feet away from its current location.
- Smoke alarms will only work when they are properly installed and maintained. A smoke alarm with a dead or missing battery is the same as having no smoke alarm at all. Always follow the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions.
*Note: you cannot (and should not) replace lithium batteries. If your smoke alarm is powered by this type of battery, the entire unit should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
For more information on fire safety and prevention, visit www.usfa.fema.gov.