Smoke Alarms Save Lives – IF Properly Maintained

The 2014 Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 5-11) theme – "Working  Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month" – echoes Benjamin Franklin's advice published in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1735 that an "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" when it comes to preventing fires and the loss of life. The United States Fire Administration (USFA) urges citizens to install smoke alarms and to inspect and maintain them on a regular basis. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics support that working smoke alarms double the chance of surviving a fire. A working smoke alarm does save lives.

Smoke alarms are such a common feature in today's homes and businesses that many owners and residents overlook them or take for granted that they work. It is easy to neglect the maintenance on the devices, but this is a very dangerous mistake. Missing or non-operating smoke alarms cannot help you in the event of a fire. The NFPA reports that three of every five home fire deaths between 2007 and 2011 occurred in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. 

A simple "ounce of prevention" each month by testing the device will help ensure proper warning in the event of a fire. For those with alkaline battery smoke detectors, the batteries should be replaced every year. Humans are creatures of habit; a suggestion might be to link the smoke alarm maintenance schedule to a special occasion or reoccurring event to make it easier to remember. 

Several states and cities have adopted legislation mandating the sale and use of 10-year smoke alarms. 10-year smoke alarms, such as those manufactured by First Alert (, contain a non-replaceable, non-removable battery that is capable of powering the device for 10 years. The life span of these smoke alarms fits with NFPA guidelines that recommend smoke alarms be replaced every 10 years from the date of manufacture. 

Properly functioning smoke alarms can provide adequate warnings for individuals to act in a timely manner to keep the loss of life and property to a minimum. They can also lessen the burden on firefighters and first response personnel. The smoke alarm can alert the homeowner of a situation that needs attention before something severe occurs.

In addition to testing the smoke alarm each month, families and businesses should also review and practice their escape plan. Educating and involving the whole family on the importance of fire safety, such as how to use a fire extinguisher and proper maintenance of smoke alarms, give individuals the confidence to follow the safe route in a fire emergency.  It is also critical to know how and when to call for assistance from the fire department.

Utilize the following tools and resources to advocate for proper smoke alarm use and maintenance in your community:

  • Smoke Alarms: This section of the NFPA web sites includes statistics, resource guides, videos, smoke alarm installation instructions, and more to help fire departments, educators, and community members reduce fire deaths and injuries.
  • Fire Prevention Week 2014: Find materials and resources to help promote the theme “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives” and educate the public on important smoke alarm and fire safety information.
  • Install. Inspect. Protect.: This campaign from the U.S. Fire Administration urges residents to install smoke alarms in their home and inspect and maintain them on a regular basis.
  • Fire Corps: Resources available include tools to help implement a smoke alarm installation and home safety check program in your community.