Smoke Alarms

Home Safety Council research shows that 97% of American homes have at least one smoke alarm, but that may not be enough. Do you have enough smoke alarms in your home? Are they correctly installed? Early warning is essential for every fire escape plan. To ensure your family will be effectively alerted to any fire dangers, use the following guidelines when installing and testing smoke alarms:
  • Be sure smoke alarms carry the label of an independent testing lab.
  • Smoke alarms can run on batteries or on household currents.
  • Smoke alarms have different sensor technologies.
    • Ionization Smoke Alarms are more effective against fast-flaming fires which consume materials rapidly and spread quickly. Sources may be paper or kitchen fires.
    • Photoelectric Smoke Alarms are more effective against slow smoldering fires, fires which smolder for hours before bursting into flames. Sources of these fires include cigarettes burning in couches or bedding.
    • Combo Units are a combination of Ionization/Photoelectric alarms and provide early warning of both types of fires.
  • Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home, including the basement and in/near every sleeping area. Ensure that all members of your family can hear your smoke alarms.
  • Mount alarms high on the wall or on ceiling. Position wall-mounted alarms with the top of the alarm 4-12 inches (10-30 centimeters) from the ceiling.
  • Position ceiling-mounted alarms at least 4 inches (10 centimeters) away from the nearest wall.
  • Don't install smoke alarms near a window, door, or forced-air register where drafts can interfere with their operation. The moving air can blow smoke away from the alarm's sensor.
  • To avoid false alarms, keep smoke alarms at least 10 feet from stoves and steamy showers.
  • Follow manufacturer's instructions using a drill and screwdriver when installing an alarm.
  • Plug-in alarms must have restraining devices so they cannot be unplugged by mistake.
  • Hard-wired alarms need to be installed by a qualified electrician.
  • Never connect a smoke alarm to a circuit that can be turned off from a wall switch.
  • Test smoke alarms once a month by pushing the test button.
  • Install new batteries at least once a year. A great way to remember to do so is to change the batteries when you change your clock for daylight savings time. 
  • Clean smoke alarms using a vacuum cleaner without removing the alarm's cover.
  • Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.
  • Smoke alarms for the hearing impaired have a built in strobe light. The alarm has both an audible and visible signal and can be mounted in ceilings and walls.
The Home Safety Council recommends installing additional smoke alarms inside all bedrooms. For the best detection and notification protection, install both ionization and photoelectric-type smoke alarms. Some models provide dual coverage. The type will be printed on the box or package.