Smoke Alarms

Best Location For Residential Smoke Alarms
The mandatory requirement for residential houses is having one smoke alarm installed protecting the bedrooms from the rest of the dwelling unit. If for example the bedrooms are served by a hallway, one smoke alarm installed in the hallway would protect those bedrooms from the remainder of the dwelling unit. This is required outside of all sleeping areas within the dwelling unit.

For recommended minimum protection, install smoke alarms outside each sleeping area, such as the hallway, and on every level of your home. For recommend maximum protection, install interconnected smoke alarms in each sleeping area, outside sleeping areas, in living area of your home and on every level of your home.Install all smoke alarms as per manufacturer's instructions, as some smoke alarms may not be designed for wall mount installation.

For hearing impaired occupants, the installation of special smoke alarms with a strobe light is essential in providing notification. Watch the short 2 minute video below from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) regarding the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms.

Nuisance Alarms
If an alarm regularly responds to cooking smoke or shower steam, consider the following:
  • If ceiling mounted, move unit to a wall.
  • If the unit is the ionization type, replace it with a photoelectric detector. This type of alarm is less sensitive to smaller particles and thus less affected by cooking smoke or small amounts of steam. Packaging and/or owner's manual will indicate type of alarm.
  • Move the alarm further away to give cooking smoke or steam a chance to dissipate before reaching the unit.
  • Replace the alarm with one that has the silence button feature.
Installing Smoke Alarms
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for the proper installation of the smoke alarm.
  • Do not install smoke alarms near heating or cooling ducts.
  • For wall-mounted units, place them at least 3 feet (1 meter) from any corner and 4-6 inches (10-15 centimeters) from the ceiling.
  • If hearing impaired persons reside within the residence, install smoke alarms with strobe lights.
  • In mobile home units, install smoke alarms on inside walls.
  • Mount smoke alarms in the middle of the ceiling, if possible.
Test smoke alarms every month. For hard to reach units, use a broom handle or stick to press the test button. Replace batteries once a year. Use daylight savings time as your reminder. If the low-battery signal begins to chirp, replace battery immediately. Vacuum the outside covers periodically to remove dust, dirt particles and insects.

Escape Planning

  • Develop an escape plan that includes two exits out of every room and a meeting place outside (e.g., mailbox or tree).
  • Teach children how to operate window locks. Second story windows may need a chain ladder to enable a safe escape.
  • Crawl low when exiting to avoid breathing in smoke and heat.
  • Practice your plan with all family members. Remember, those with special needs may require assistance.
For further information regarding home escape planning, please review our webpage on Home Escape Plans.

Safety Tips

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths. Sleep with bedroom doors closed. Purchase and use ashtrays that have the center support feature and never smoke in bed. Do not leave cooking, candles or space heaters unattended.

Store matches and lighters out of the reach of children. Avoid overloading electrical circuits, inspect electrical cords and appliances for damage, and use extension cords with built-in circuit breakers.

Time For a Replacement

For the best protection, replace your smoke alarms every 10 years. The failure rates for smoke alarms generally are:
  • First year: 2-3%
  • Second to 10th year: 16-30%
  • More than 10 years old: 30-50%