Replace and Upgrade your Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years
Did you know that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)* urges replacing home smoke alarms after 10 years? As leaders in home safety, the NFPA also encourages you to upgrade your smoke alarms to a combination smoke/carbon monoxide (CO) alarm for double protection.
Licensed professionals can help you determine the age of the smoke alarms in your home and if they meet code requirements. Aging smoke alarms do not operate efficiently and often are the source for nuisance alarms. Older smoke alarms are estimated to have a 30% probability of failure within the first 10 years. Newer smoke alarms do better, but should be replaced after 10 years. Unless you know that the smoke alarms are new, replacing them when moving into a new residence is also recommended by NFPA.
Smoke alarms, when properly installed, give an early audible warning needed to safely escape from fire. That's critical because 85% of all fire deaths occur in the home, and the majority occur at night when most people are sleeping. Last year, the NFPA documented 3,420 home fire deaths.
Fully 94% of
U.S. homes had at least one smoke alarm as of 1997, according to NFPA, but as of 1998, 40% of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments and 52% of home fire deaths still occurred in the small share of homes with no smoke alarms. Half of the deaths from fires in homes equipped with smoke alarms resulted from fires in which the smoke alarm did not sound--usually when batteries were dead, disconnected or missing.
"Simple steps like maintaining smoke alarms and replacing older ones help diminish the possibility of fire deaths in the home," says John R. Hall, Jr., NFPA's assistant vice president for fire analysis and research. "Smoke alarms in the home are largely responsible for the decreasing number of home fire deaths over the last decades."
The NFPA offers the following smoke alarm safety tips:
- Install new batteries in all alarms once a year or when the alarm chirps to warn that the battery is dying.
- Test units at least monthly. Test the units using the test button or an approved smoke substitute.
- Clean the units, in accordance with the manufacturers' instructions.
- Do not use an open-flame device for testing because of the danger the flame poses.
- Smoke alarms should be placed outside each sleeping area and on each level of the home, including the basement.
- In new homes, smoke alarms are required in all sleeping rooms, according to the National Fire Alarm Code.
- Alarms should be mounted on the wall 4-12 inches from the ceiling; ceiling-mounted alarms should be positioned 4 inches away from the nearest wall. On a vaulted ceiling, be sure to mount the alarm at the highest point of the ceiling.
*Quincy, MA, October 23, 2001
National Fire Protection Association