Smoke Alarm Safety

When properly installed and maintained, smoke alarms save lives. You can minimize your family’s risk of fire-related injury or death by installing the right number of smoke alarms in the right places in your home, and by keeping them all in good working order. Follow these five tips to help keep your family safe in the event of a fire in your home.

Replace any smoke alarms that are older than 10 years.

If your smoke alarms were installed prior to March 2008, they need to be replaced now.

Smoke detectors are one of the easiest ways to protect your family in case of a fire in your home. However, like any electronic device, smoke alarms have a life expectancy and are subject to malfunctions and failures. That’s why Fire Departments and smoke alarm manufacturers recommend that smoke alarms be replaced at least every 10 years. This applies to both electric and battery-powered alarms.

Even if your smoke alarms are still operating after 10 years, older devices may require more time to activate in a fire, reducing your escape time. After 10 years of use, your smoke alarm has protected your family for 3650 nights or almost 88,000 hours; it’s time to replace them.

Change batteries every six months.

A review of fatal fire data over a three-year period in Ontario found that in 85% of the fires where a smoke alarm was present and did not operate, a dead or missing battery was the reason. Smoke alarm batteries should be replaced every six months when you change your clocks for Daylight Saving Time.

Put smoke alarms in the right places.

Install smoke alarms outside each bedroom and sleeping area, and on each level of your home, including the basement. This will help provide the earliest warning in the event of a fire. It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper placement within each room. Placing a smoke alarm too low or in dead air spaces can result in a delay or failure of the alarm to activate.

Test your alarms monthly.

Smoke alarms should be maintained and tested in accordance to the manufacturer’s instructions. This generally includes monthly testing for proper operation, as well as gently vacuuming the alarm every six months.

Never remove the batteries or disconnect a smoke alarm.

It’s not uncommon for smoke alarms to activate when there is no fire. There are a number of reasons why this happens, including improper location, a dirty alarm, installation troubles, or cooking that causes activation.

If false alarms are a common occurrence in your home, do not remove the battery or disconnect your smoke detectors. Consider relocating the smoke alarm so that it is at least twenty feet from cooking appliances and three feet from heat/AC vents.

Alternately, there are alarms on the market now that have a pause or hush feature. These alarms are designed so that they can be silenced by the resident without the need for removing the battery. When silenced or hushed, the alarm will automatically reset itself after a few minutes, ensuring continuous protection.

Over the years, properly located and maintained smoke alarms have been proven to be effective at saving lives and even reducing the level of property damage. Always remember though, working smoke alarms make up only a small part of an overall home fire safety strategy. Adopting fire safe behaviors, as well as developing and practicing a home fire escape plan, are essential.