Smoke alarms are devices that are able to detect smoke or fire, giving an audible alarm as a result. According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

After a home starts burning, poisonous gas and smoke spread fast, and you need functioning smoke alarms positioned in the right place and of the correct number to give you time to escape. Be sure that having an adequate number of operational smoke alarms correctly installed in your home is part of your plan—your plan to be safe.

Buying a Smoke Alarm

Always purchase smoke alarms that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory. You can select the type you want to meet your needs, including alarms with built-in lights, voice or signal alarms, hardwired or wireless interconnected, and battery or commercial electric powered. You can purchase smoke alarms at many home improvement and hardware stores, as well as online retailers.

There are generally two types of smoke alarms: ionization and photoelectric.  For the best protection, use a combination ionization-photoelectric alarm, which is also known as a dual sensor smoke alarm.

Where to Install Smoke Alarms

Besides needing smoke alarms, you also need to have enough of them.  Building code requirements might not be the same for every location, but in general you should have one outside and inside every sleeping room, as well as one on every level of the home, including the basement. It’s also a good idea to place one in an attached garage.  

For levels without sleeping rooms, install smoke alarms in the living room or wherever the family tends to spend time. Place a smoke alarm near each stairway, too.

Mount smoke alarms high on walls, not more than 1 foot away from the ceiling, or on the ceiling itself. For slanted ceilings, install the alarm within 3 feet of the peak, but not less than 4 inches from the apex of the peak.

Don’t place stickers on smoke alarms or paint them as it could keep them from working.

You can also interconnect all of your smoke alarms; by doing this, when one smoke alarm alerts, they all alert. Remember, you might not be able to hear which alarm detected smoke in this scenario. Additionally, when interconnected smoke alarms are installed, it’s important that all of the alarms are compatible or they might not function properly.

Maintaining and Testing Smoke Alarms

Be sure to keep the manufacturer’s instructions on-hand to use as a guide for testing and maintaining smoke alarms. As a rule of thumb, check them every 6 months by pushing the test button to run the test cycle. If the smoke alarm is battery operated, replace the batteries every 12 months. It is handy to replace the batteries the same time each year such as when Daylight Saving Time begins or ends.

If a smoke alarm fails to operate correctly, immediately take it out of service and replace it with a new one. Most models have a recommended life expectancy of 10 years. Many will continue to test properly even after 10 years, but generally the industry recommends they still be replaced. Both hardwired and battery-operated models should be replaced after 10 years.

Smoke kills. Have a plan to detect any smoke or fire in your home.

Stay safe!