• Install your smoke alarms correctly
• Keep your smoke alarms working properly
Because fire can grow and spread so quickly, having working smoke
alarms in your home can mean the difference between life and death.
Once the alarm sounds, you may have as few as two minutes to escape.
Smoke alarms are the most effective early warning devices available.
Just having a smoke alarm in your home cuts your chance of dying
in a fire nearly in half.
You can reduce your risk even more by learning how to effectively
use the smoke alarm's early warning to get out safely. Automatic
home fire sprinklers reduce your risk of dying in a home fire even
Install your smoke alarms correctly
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including
the basement. Make sure there is an alarm in or near every
• Mount the smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings—remember,
smoke rises. Ceiling-mounted alarms should be installed at
least four inches away from the nearest wall; wall-mounted
alarms should be installed four to 12 inches away from the
• If you have ceilings that are pitched, install the
alarm near the ceiling's highest point.
• Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or
ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.
• Hard-wired smoke alarms operate on your household
electrical current. They can be interconnected so that every
alarm sounds regardless of the fire's location. This is an
advantage in early warning, because it gives occupants extra
time to escape if they are in one part of the home and a fire
breaks out in another part. Alarms that are hard-wired should
have battery backups in case of a power outage, and should
be installed by a qualified electrician.
• Don't paint your smoke alarms; paint, stickers or
other decorations could keep them from working properly.
Keep your smoke alarms working properly
• Test your smoke alarms at least once a month, following
the manufacturer's instructions.
• Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm once a year, or
as soon as the alarm "chirps," warning that the battery
is low. HINT: schedule battery replacements for the same day you
change your clock from daylight to standard time in the fall.
• Never "borrow" a battery from a smoke alarm. Smoke
alarms can't warn you of fire if their batteries are missing or
have been disconnected.
• Don't disable smoke alarms even temporarily – you
may forget to replace the battery. If your smoke alarm is sounding
"nuisance alarms," it may need dusting or vacuuming. If
that doesn't work, try relocating it further away from kitchens
and bathrooms, where cooking fumes and steam can cause the alarm
• Regularly vacuuming or dusting your smoke alarms following
manufacturer's instructions can help keep it working properly.
• Smoke alarms don't last forever. Replace your smoke alarms
once every 10 years.
• Make sure that everyone in your home can identify and awaken
to the sound of the alarm.
• Plan regular fire drills (twice a year is best) to ensure
that everyone knows exactly what to do when the smoke alarm sounds.
Hold a drill at night to make sure that sleeping family members
awaken at the sound of the alarm.
• If you are building a new home or remodeling your existing
home, consider installing an automatic home fire sprinkler system.
Sprinklers and smoke alarms together cut your risk of dying in a
home fire 82 percent relative to having neither – a savings
of thousands of lives a year.
Here to Read NFPA's smoke alarm fact sheet.
• Reproduced from NFPA's Fire Prevention Week Web site, www.firepreventionweek.org.