Smoke Alarms - Your First Line of Defense

There are two basic types of smoke alarms, ionization and photoelectric. Ionization alarms are quicker at detecting flames, while photoelectric alarms are faster at sensing smoke. Since you want to be protected in all fire situations, the United States Fire Administration recommends installing both types of alarms, or alarms that contain both types of sensors, labeled "dual sensor alarms." Such alarms can be found at your local hardware, home improvement, or super store.

If someone in your home is hearing impaired, it is important to also install a smoke alarm especially for them. If may use flashing lights and/or vibration to better alert household members who cannot hear the warning of a standard smoke alarm.

Did You Know:

  • If every home had working smoke alarms, almost 900 lives could be saved each year.
  • The presence and proper maintenance of smoke alarms increases your chances of surviving a fire by 50%.
  • Most people die in the first 5 minutes of a fire.
  • You can't smell smoke when you're sleeping. If anything, smoke will put you into a deeper sleep.
  • In a fire, heat at the floor is 90ºF, and at the ceiling the temperature is 800ºF. Heat at 150ºF will render you unconscious and can kill you.
  • A fire burning in a house for 1 minutes grows to 3 times its original size; 11 times by 4 minutes, and at 6 minutes, it reaches 50 times its original size.

How to Keep Your Smoke Alarm Working:

  • Test all smoke alarms once a month by briefly pressing the test button.
  • Hard-wired smoke detectors with battery backup still need to be tested monthly.
  • Never remove working smoke alarms batteries for any reason.
  • Keep your smoke alarms free of dust and debris.
  • If your smoke alarm starts to "chirp", the batteries are low. Promptly replace the batteries and reset the alarm.
  • Replace batteries in all smoke alarms 1-2 times a year. A good rule of thumb is change your clock, change your smoke alarm batteries.

Don't Play Games With Your Life or The Lives of Your Family:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, and in all sleeping rooms.
  • Most smoke alarms need to be replaced every 8-10 years, even those that are hard-wired with battery backup. You may want to note the purchase date on the inside of your smoke alarms so you know when to replace them.
  • If you smoke alarm goes off while you are cooking - do not disable it. Some smoke alarms have a "hush" button, but if yours does not, wave a towel near the alarm to clear the air.
  • Make sure all household members know the sound of the smoke alarm. If children are not awakened by the sound, establish a plan for waking them in case of fire.