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Smoke Alarm Safety
alarms can act as a warning to get out
of a building when a fire occurs, but they are only effective when working
properly. Every home and business should be equipped with smoke
alarms that are installed correctly and tested regularly. If you are a
member of a fire/EMS department or Fire Corps team, consider using Fire Corps to
alarm tests and installations in homes. If you are a community member,
make sure that your smoke
alarms are properly installed, connected, and working.
The right way to install smoke
- Install smoke
alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, making
sure there is an alarm outside every separate sleeping area. New homes are
required to have a smoke
alarm in every sleeping room and all smoke
alarms must be interconnected.
- Hard-wired smoke
alarms operate on your household electrical current. They can be
interconnected so that every alarm sounds regardless of the fire's location.
This is an advantage in early warning, because it gives occupants extra time
to escape if they are in one part of the home and a fire breaks out in
another part. Alarms that are hard-wired should have battery backups in case
of a power outage, and should be installed by a qualified electrician.
- If you sleep with bedroom doors closed, have a
qualified electrician install interconnected smoke
alarms in each room so that when one alarm sounds, they all sound.
- If you or someone in your home is hearing
impaired, consider installing an alarm that combines flashing lights,
vibration, and/or sound.
- Mount smoke
alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises).
Ceiling-mounted alarms should be installed at least four inches away from
the nearest wall; wall-mounted alarms should be installed four to 12 inches
away from the ceiling.
- If you have ceilings that are pitched, install
the alarm near the ceiling's highest point.
- Don't install smoke
alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere
with their operation.
- Never paint smoke
alarms. Paint, stickers, or other decorations could keep the alarms
A life-saving test: check your smoke
- Test your smoke
alarms once a month, following the manufacturer's instructions.
- Replace the batteries in your smoke
alarm once a year, or as soon as the alarm "chirps" warning
that the battery is low. Hint: schedule battery replacements for the same
day you change your clocks from daylight savings time to standard time in
- Never "borrow" a battery from a smoke
alarms can't warn you of fire if their batteries are missing or have
- Don't disable smoke
alarms even temporarily. If your smoke
alarm is sounding "nuisance alarms," try relocating it
farther from kitchens or bathrooms, where cooking fumes and steam can cause
the alarm to sound.
- Regularly vacuuming or dusting your smoke
alarms can keep them working properly. Be sure to follow the
alarms don't last forever. Replace yours once every 10 years. If you
can't remember how old the alarm is, then it's probably time for a new one.
- Consider installing smoke
alarms with "long-life" (10-year) batteries.
- Plan regular fire drills to ensure that
everyone knows exactly what to do when the smoke
alarm sounds. Hold a drill at night to make sure that sleeping family
members awaken at the sound of the alarm.
- If you are building a new home or remodeling
your existing home, consider installing an automatic home fire sprinkler
system. Sprinklers and smoke
alarms together cut your risk of dying in a home fire by 82 percent
– a savings of thousands of lives a year.