Having working smoke alarms in your home is as important as wearing a seatbelt in your car. It’s a necessity that protects you and your loved ones. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), approximately three out of five home fire deaths occur in residences with no working smoke alarms or without any smoke alarms at all. These cases can be avoided as smoke alarms are accessible and easy to install.
Smoke alarms serve a critical and life-saving purpose, sounding when smoke is detected to give people the most time possible to escape and call for help. The NFPA shares that the risk of dying from a home fire is cut in half if working smoke alarms are in place. However, only 23% of Americans check their smoke alarms monthly, according to data from a new survey conducted by UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI). Smoke alarms with dead, missing or disconnected batteries account for a significant number of fire tragedies, and according to the NFPA, 46% of nonworking smoke alarms are due to missing or disconnected batteries.
While an unexpected chirp — beep, beep, beep — from a smoke alarm may sometimes be a nuisance, the need for working smoke alarms is critically important. Forty years ago, people had around 17 minutes to escape their home in the event of a fire. Today, due to synthetic materials, furniture, more spacious floorplans and lighter-weight construction materials, people now have three minutes or less to escape their home. Smoke alarms give the earliest possible warning that there could be a fire.
New technology has made smoke alarms better at differentiating common smoke from cooking, and an actual, potentially life-threatening fire. While it is difficult to eliminate all nuisance chirps, the next generation of alarms will greatly reduce nuisance alarms due to cooking — the leading reason for a smoke alarm to be disabled, according to the NFPA and Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). This practice is extremely dangerous.
“Simply put, the complacent ‘it won’t happen to me’ approach many take when it comes to fires can have significant consequences today,” said Steve Kerber, vice president, Research, UL FSRI. “Working smoke alarms are an easy and effective safeguard to protect you and your family, and with new technology greatly reducing nuisance alarms, we’re hoping to see significantly fewer disabled alarms in the field when responding to fires.”
Smoke alarms help save lives. Here are helpful fire safety tips to follow:
- Install working smoke alarms on every level of the house, in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and in the basement.
- Position smoke alarms on the ceiling or high on a wall. Smoke alarms should be at least 10 feet away from the stove.
- Test all smoke alarms once a month. Press the test button to be sure the alarm is working.
- Don’t disable your smoke alarms.
- Working smoke alarms will continue to provide protection through the end of their 10-year life span. At the end of the 10-year span, install new alarms with enhanced technology.
- Create an escape plan, practice it with your immediate and extended family and caregivers, and act on it when an alarm sounds.
- Close Before You Doze. A closed door can be an effective barrier against deadly levels of carbon monoxide, smoke and flames, keeping rooms survivable for longer.
- Get down, get out and stay out if a smoke alarm goes off in your home or building.
For information on the technology advancements behind these life-saving products and for more fire safety tips, visit smokealarms.UL.org.