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Smoke Alarm Information

Every year in the United States, about 3,000 people lose their lives in residential fires. Most fire victims die from inhalation of smoke and toxic gases.  Most fatal fires occur at night while the victims are asleep.

Along with carbon monoxide detectors and a well-rehearsed fire escape plan, properly installed and maintained smoke alarms in your home can cut your odds of dying in a fire by half or more.

smoke alarm 1Here are some guidelines on where to locate smoke alarms:

  • Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room and in the hallway outside each sleeping room.
  • Place at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home.
  • Locate the smoke alarm on the room’s flat ceiling or on the wall within 12” of the ceiling.
  • Avoid placing alarms near the top of peaked ceilings or near air vents; these locations can reduce their effectiveness. 

Recent years have seen improvements in smoke alarm technology.  Following are several considerations when purchasing a new model:

  • smoke alarm 2Use interconnected smoke alarms (wired or wireless) to provide the earliest possible warning that a fire is occurring.
  • “Dual sensor” smoke alarms detect both smoldering and flaming fires, ensuring the most comprehensive coverage.
  • Models that are hardwired to your home’s electrical power and have battery back-up will provide the best guarantee of being fully-powered when you need them most.
  • Many newer models are supplied with long-life batteries which require less frequent replacement.

Once installed, follow these steps to ensure reliability from your device:

  • Replace your smoke alarm’s battery at least every year, unless its instruction manual states otherwise.  The beginning or end of daylight savings time is an ideal time.  Certain new models come pre-packaged with lithium batteries rated for ten years’ of life.
  • Press your alarm’s test button once a month to make sure it sounds properly.  Please know that this only tests the alarm’s ability to make noise — the test button does not test its ability to detect smoke. 
  • Replace your smoke alarm regularly, at the time specified in the instruction manual.  Smoke alarms contain reactive materials that degrade over time, which eventually makes them useless and thus requiring replacement.
  • If a smoke alarm is producing frequent nuisance alarms, do not disable it!  Instead, clean it according to the instruction manual, or consider using a different type of alarm (photoelectric) that will be less sensitive.
  • At the same time you replace your smoke alarm batteries, replace the batteries in your Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm.

The Des Moines Fire Department also urges families to develop and rehearse an escape plan so that when the smoke alarm sounds, family members can immediately move to a safe location outside the home.

We recommend the following emergency escape practices:

  • Develop a home fire escape plan.
  • Practice the plan at least twice a year with the entire household.
  • Practice the fire escape plan with your children, babysitter, and older family members.
  • During practice, identify and remove obstacles that may prevent a quick and safe evacuation, such as clutter, blocked doors or stuck windows.
  • Because children may not awaken to the sound of a smoke alarm, parents should hold a nighttime fire drill to assess their children’s ability to respond and evacuate.

Don't wait for a fire in your home to test your smoke alarm and develop a fire escape plan - - - DO IT NOW!