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Smoke and CO Alarms

Smoke Detectors/Alarms—What You May Not Know

By now we all know it’s recommended we change our smoke detector/alarm batteries when we change our clocks.  But did you know it’s possible you should be replacing your smoke detector?

Smoke detectors/alarms have a ten-year lifespan.  If yours are ten or more years old–whether battery operated or hard-wired with battery backup—you should replace them. 

Detectors/alarms that do not work properly, that chirp or beep even though new batteries have been installed or do not sound when you push the “test” button, should be replaced immediately regardless of age.

When you buy new smoke alarms, look for the ones with sealed lithium batteries.  The lithium batteries last for 10 years.  These are ideal for seniors too, especially seniors whose homes have high or vaulted ceilings.

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) offers the following information you should know about smoke detectors/alarms:

  • Smoke detectors/alarms are the cheapest life insurance you can buy for you and your family.
  • Two out of every five deaths occurring during a house fire occur in homes that do not have smoke detectors/alarms or whose detectors are not functioning: battery removed battery dead, etc.
  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Hard-wired smoke alarms are the safest because when one sounds, they all sound: if a fire starts in your kitchen in the middle of the night, the alarm in your bedroom will sound before the smoke reaches your bedroom, giving you precious extra time to escape.
  • An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types of alarms and a combination alarm (photoelectric and ionization) should be installed.
  • Smoke rises; install smoke alarms following manufacturer’s instructions high on a wall or on a ceiling. Save manufacturer’s instructions for testing and maintenance.
  • If cooking fumes or steam sets off nuisance alarms, replace the alarm with an alarm that has a “hush” button. A “hush” button will reduce the alarm’s sensitivity for a short period of time.
  • An ionization alarm with a hush button or a photoelectric alarm should be used if the alarm is within 20 feet of a cooking appliance.
  • Some research has shown that children often sleep through a smoke alarm.  Smoke alarms that include a recordable voice announcement in addition to the usual alarm sound, may be helpful in waking children through the use of a familiar voice.

If you cannot safely reach your detectors to change the batteries, ask family/friends/neighbors to help you.  If they cannot, consider hiring a handyman.  For more information about fire safety, click here.  For fun ways to teach your children about safety, visit Sparky the Fire Dog at

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