Fifteen of every 16 homes have a smoke alarm, according to the National Fire Protection Association and United States Fire Administration. However, only three-quarters have a working smoke alarm.
Many homes do not have sufficient numbers of alarms or do not have them located in the correct places. Smoke alarms are easy to install and, more importantly, they are an inexpensive way to keep your family alive in case of a fire. More than 2,500 fatalities occur each year in residential fires. Two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Every residence should have smoke alarms installed in all of the following areas:
- inside all sleeping rooms (bedrooms)
- outside each separate sleeping area (for example, the hallway serving the sleeping rooms) in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms
- on each level of the residence even if there are no sleeping rooms, including the basement
If you don’t already have smoke alarms in your home, purchase some and install them in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and instructions. In many jurisdictions, it’s the law to have working smoke alarms in or near every bedroom. If you cannot afford smoke alarms, you may find programs in your area that can help you; ask your local fire department for advice.
Regularly check your smoke alarms to be sure they are working. It is recommended you test smoke alarms every month by pressing the alarm’s test button to make sure you can hear the alarm. Periodically replace the batteries. When smoke alarms fail to work, most often the problem is caused by old or removed batteries. Put fresh batteries in all of your smoke alarms when the time changes in the spring and fall. (Note: Daylight saving time runs from 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March to 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.) If you hear a smoke alarm chirping, that generally means the battery is about to die and needs to be replaced.
Nearly 5 million homes still do not have any smoke alarms, and many more do not have sufficient numbers to provide proper protection. Is your home one of them? Contact your local fire department with questions specific to your area or for assistance with proper selection and placement.
More information about fire prevention:
Kitchen a hot spot for home fires, injuries
Escape plans critical to surviving a fire
Carbon monoxide: Combustion’s deadly companion
College students may need fire prevention refresher
This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.