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Smoke Alarm Safety
Updated On: Dec 358, 2008

Smoke Alarm Safety

Smoke Alarms Save Lives!

When fire strikes you may have less than one minute to safely get out of the building.

  • Having working smoke alarms in your home can double you chances of survival if a fire occurs.
  • Home fire deaths have been cut in half since the early 1970’s when smoke alarms were first marketed.
  • 50% of the fire deaths that occur each year in the U.S. take place in the 5% of homes without smoke alarms!

Fires produce heat, smoke and toxic gases.

Smoke alarms warn residents in the event of a fire. They give you time to leave the building before your escape route is blocked by deadly smoke, heat and toxic gases.

Special smoke alarms are available for the hearing impaired.

The alarm can be wired to a light, which flashes when the detector is in alarm. A vibrating alert unit can also be used under a pillow while the person is asleep.

Plan and practice a home fire escape route.

  • Have two ways out of every room.
  • Discuss the plan so each member of the family understands what to do in case of emergency.
  • Choose a place outside the home where family members can meet to be sure everyone is safely out of the building.

Practice, practice, practice…Conduct drills frequently so actions become automatic behaviors.

  • Hold a family fire drill during the day, while everyone is awake and another one at night while children are asleep to see how they respond.
  • Following the drill, make adjustments to the plan.
  • Does someone in the family, who may be too young or physically impaired, need assistance?
  • An adult can go to their room and help that person to an alternate escape route.
  • If a child sleeps through the alarm they may need to be awakened by an adult.
  • Consider purchasing a folding escape ladder as a secondary means of exit from upper floors.

Click here for more information on Planning and Practicing Home Fire Drills

When the alarm sounds:

  • Leave the building.
  • Get out, Stay out!
  • Go to the family meeting place.
  • Dial 9-1-1 from a neighbor’s home.

All newly built homes are required to have smoke alarms. MGL c.148 s.26F External Link requires that all homes sold or transferred in Massachusetts have working smoke alarms.

General guidelines for smoke alarm placement:

  • On every level of your home.
  • In hallways outside the bedroom.
  • At the top of open stairways.
  • At the base of cellar stairs.
  • Inside the bedroom for sound sleepers or smokers.

Contact your local fire department for exact locations.


  • Once a month vacuum or blow out dust from the alarms.
  • Push the test button.
  • Change batteries at least once a year. An easy way to remember is to change the batteries when you change your clocks. A “chirping” sound indicates that it’s time to change the batteries.
  • Don’t paint smoke alarms!

If your smoke alarms are 10 years old or more it’s time to replace them with new ones. There’s a label on the alarm with the date of manufacture. If it doesn’t have a label, it’s already more than ten years old. If you don’t know how old they are it’s best to install new ones.


This information is from the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services

Smoke alarm safety tips  
Smoke alarms save lives. Sixty-five percent of home fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms at all or no smoke alarms that work. When there is a fire, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out.

Safety tips

  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
  • An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types of alarms or a combination alarm (photoelectric and ionization) should be installed in homes.
  • Test alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.
  • Smoke rises; install smoke alarms following manufacturer's instructions high on a wall or on a ceiling. Save manufacturer's instructions for testing and maintenance.
  • Replace batteries in all smoke alarms at least once a year. If an alarm “chirps”, warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
  • Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they are 10 year old or sooner if they do not respond properly.
  • Be sure the smoke alarm has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Alarms that are hard-wired (and include battery backup) must be installed by a qualified electrician.
  • If cooking fumes or steam sets off nuisance alarms, replace the alarm with an alarm that has a "hush" button. A "hush" button will reduce the alarm’s sensitivity for a short period of time.
  • An ionization alarm with a hush button or a photoelectric alarm should be used if the alarm is within 20 feet of a cooking appliance.
  • Smoke alarms that include a recordable voice announcement in addition to the usual alarm sound, may be helpful in waking children through the use of a familiar voice.
  • Smoke alarms are available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing . These devices use strobe lights. Vibration devices can be added to these alarms
This information is from

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