Smoke Alarms

If there is a fire in your home, smoke alarms are your first line of defense. They give you an early warning that a dangerous condition is present, and could give your family the extra time to escape. It is mandatory to have a smoke alarm on each floor of your home. There are many types of smoke alarms, each with different features. Alarms can be electrically connected, battery-powered, or a combination of both.


  • If a smoke detector goes off, you literally have seconds to respond. There is absolutely no time to gather possessions, pets and possibly even each other. Your best response is to leave your home immediately, gather at your prearranged meeting place and call 911 from a neighbor's home.
  • Never go back into the house once you've escaped from a fire.

Two Types of Smoke Alarms

Two types of technology are used in smoke detectors, and each is better at detecting a certain kind of fire.

  • The ionization type of smoke alarm is generally better at detecting fast, flaming fires that burn combustible materials rapidly and spread quickly. Sources could include paper burning in a wastebasket or a grease fire in the kitchen. These kinds of fires account for 70% of home fires.
  • The photoelectric type of smoke alarm is generally better suited for detecting slow-burning fires. These fires may smolder for hours before they burst into flames and are caused by such things as cigarettes burning in couches or bedding. These kinds of fires make up 30% of home fires.

You may want to consider installing both types of smoke alarms, or models that incorporate both types of technology. This would ensure that you are alerted as early as possible to any kind of fire in your home.

Minimizing Your Risk

You can minimize your family's risk of fire-related injury or death by installing the right number of smoke alarms in the right places in your home, and by keeping them all in good working order.

  • Install smoke alarms on every floor, including the basement.
  • Make sure the smoke alarms in your home have the UL stamp of approval on the product and packaging.
  • Read and follow every step of the manufacturer's directions when you install your smoke alarms.
  • Follow the manufacturer's directions for testing and cleaning your smoke alarms.
  • Change the batteries as often as recommended by the manufacturer. Test your smoke alarm to ensure the battery is operational.
  • Never "borrow" batteries from your smoke alarm for some other device.
  • Replace any smoke detector that is more than 10 years old.
  • Develop a "family escape plan" (Exit Drills in the Home) in case of fire in your home. Practice the plan and make sure your children understand what they should do if they hear warning sounds from a smoke alarm. The escape plan should include a meeting point outside the home.