Is Your Smoke Alarm Working?

Has Your Smoke Alarm Expired?
Is Your Smoke Alarm Working?

One question firefighters ask all the time is “Do you have working smoke alarms in your home?” This may seem like a simple question and the answer almost always is “yeah I have a few.” The key question is “Do they work?” This question is tricky. The resounding answer is “sure they do”. But the thought is “except for that one I took down because it wouldn’t stop beeping.”

Here’s something to consider. Many of the homes built in the early days of San Tan Valley’s rapid growth are now a decade old. Although, young in terms of a community, Ten years is the end of life for a smoke alarm. According to the National Fire Protection Agency;

It is required that smoke alarms be replaced within 10 years according to NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. They are not permitted to remain in use longer than 10 year from the date of manufacture. Also, the manufacturer’s instructions for most smoke alarms state they are to be replaced when they fail to respond or after 10 years. Combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms must be replaced when the end-of-life signal sounds or 10 years after the date of manufacture, whichever occurs first.

Many homeowners have spent time at 3 am trying to quiet a chirping smoke alarm. But, that may have been the end-of-life sound of an alarm letting you know that you are no longer being provided early detection of a fire and valuable seconds to escape.

What you can do:

Perform a monthly test of your smoke alarms. Make sure alarms sound when tested, that interconnected alarms trigger other alarms in the home. Replace batteries. But most important… CHECK THE DATE OF MANUFACTURE. To do this:

  1. Remove the alarm from the mounting.
  2. Look on the underside for a manufacture date.
  3. If the date is older than 2007 or 10 years, REPLACE the alarm (including hardwired)
  4. If it is under 10 years and it works, take the chance to clean it. Blow off or gently wipe off any dust or debris. Make sure it works before reinstalling.

Rural Metro Fire Department also recommends:

Installing smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom and sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home, including the basement. (Large homes may need extra smoke alarms.)

  • Interconnected smoke alarms – whether hardwired or wireless -- are best because when one is activated, they all sound.
  • Test all smoke alarms at least once a month. Simply press the test button to be sure the alarm works.
  • Ionization smoke alarms are quicker to warn of flaming fires. Photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn of smoldering fires. It’s best to use some of both types.
  • A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall. Installed wall-mounted alarms should be no more than 12 inches from the ceiling to the top of the alarm.
  • Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation. To reduce false alarms, keep alarms at least 10 feet from a stove.
  • Make sure everyone in your home knows how to respond if they hear a smoke alarm.
  • Make sure children and adults know where to meet once they get out of the home.
  • Talk to children about getting out safe, even if they have to break a window.
  • If you have disabled or elderly persons in your home, make a plan to help them out
  • Never go back into a home on fire to get pets or things

What if they need to be replaced?

If your alarms are hardwired, meaning they plug into a power source and are all interconnected, you can purchase replacement alarms at most local home improvement stores. Alarms can also be ordered on-line. Battery operated alarms are inexpensive and easy to install. All new alarms will have a fresh 10 year life and possibly a 10 year sealed lithium battery. No more battery replacement!

Rural Metro Fire Department offers all members a free annual home safety inspection, including smoke alarm testing and escape planning.

To activate your membership or to set up a safety review for your property contact Rural Metro Fire Department at 480-606-3342.