Fire & Burns

Home Smoke Alarms: Your First Line Of Defense

Breathing in toxic smoke is often the cause of fire-related deaths. While 9 out of 10 homes have a smoke alarm, many of those alarms are either missing batteries, or do not work.  Having working home smoke alarms can give you the time you need to escape a dangerous situation.


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    • Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, including your basement. Place them near sleeping areas, and inside each bedroom. 
    • Smoke rises, so be sure to install smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings. Ceiling-mounted alarms should be at least 4 inches away from the nearest wall; wall-mounted alarms should be installed 4 to 12 inches away from the ceiling. 
    • Look for smoke alarms that are connected to each other, either by wire or by wireless signal, so when one alarm sounds, the others do too. 
    • Use long-life smoke alarms with lithium-powered batteries and hush buttons. Smoke alarms with 10-year batteries and a sprinkler system provide the most protection if a fire should start.

    • Test your smoke alarm at least two times each year. This will not only ensure that it’s working properly, but will help familiarize children with it, and remind them of the sound.
    • Even if your alarm comes with a 10-year battery, you still need to test it twice a year. You can use Daylight saving time as a helpful reminder. 
    • Smoke alarms do expire. Install a new one every 10 years, or as recommended by the manufacturer. 
    • Never unplug the smoke alarm or remove the batteries. If you hear the “chirp” that warns of a low battery, replace it immediately. 
    • Keep your smoke alarms clean by vacuuming them.

    • Photoelectric smoke alarms respond faster to slow-burning fires that tend to smolder and produce large amounts of smoke (i.e., fires caused by cigarettes, fireplace embers and electrical shorts). 
    • Ionization smoke alarms respond more quickly to fast-flaming fires that ignite quickly with larger flames, but produce less smoke (i.e., fires caused by gasoline or other flammable liquids, newspapers, cleaning products and cooking grease). 
    • It’s recommended by the US Fire Administration that you have both types installed, since you never know which type of fire might start in your home.

    • Families with a fire sprinkler system and working smoke alarms decrease their risk of death in a fire by 83% when compared to families with neither.
    • Fire sprinklers are activated by heat, not smoke (so smoke alarms are still very important). This way, only sprinklers near the fire will go off.
    • If you are buying a new home or even just renovating, consider adding a fire sprinkler system. Be sure to use a trained contractor who will follow National Fire Protection Association codes and standards to install your system.

Did You Know?

Illustration of smoke detection sounding alarm in the midst of smoke.

Working smoke alarms reduce your chance of dying in a home fire by 50%.

- Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital