Smoke Alarms and CO Alarms: Make Sure Your Fire Protection Alarms Are Working (a Daylight Saving Time Reminder)

Smoke Alarms and CO Alarms: Make Sure Your Fire Protection Alarms Are Working (a Daylight Saving Time Reminder)

Daylight Saving Time began this week, and for many who deal with the threat of fire injuries and smoke-inhalation injuries, this is the time to remind everyone to make sure that their homes and workplaces have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.

It’s a habit that has been promoted for awhile now by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Both the Indiana State Fire Marshall and the Illinois State Fire Marshall have also issued news releases reminding those of us who live and work in Indiana and Illinois to take a minute to make sure those smoke alarms have fresh batteries and are in good working order. Carbon Monoxide alarms need to be checked, too.

From the CPSC, reports are that in the United States there were:

• 357,000 fires, 2,210 deaths, 12,140 injuries, and $6.96 billion in property loss in 2009;
• 364,300 fires, 2,330 deaths, 12,910 injuries, and $6.63 billion in property loss in 2010;
• 365,500 fires, 2,240 deaths, 13,400 injuries, and $6.46 billion in property loss in 2011; and
• an estimated annual average of 362,300 fires, 2,260 deaths, 12,820 injuries, and $6.68 billion in property loss over the three-year period 2009–2011.

Make Sure Your Smoke Alarms and CO Alarms Are Protecting Your Home and Family

There are certain protocols that are recommended by fire professionals to keep your home and family safe from fire injuries through fire warning systems like smoke alarms. Most smoke alarm failures are not due to a defective product, but from batteries being old, dead, disconnected, or just plain not installed into the alarm.

The NFPA suggests that we all :

  1. Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button.
  2. Make sure everyone in the home understands the sound of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.
  3. Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old.
  4. Replace the smoke alarm immediately if it doesn’t respond properly when tested.
  5. Smoke alarms with nonreplaceable (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, a warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away.
  6. For smoke alarms with any other type of battery, replace batteries at least once a year. If the alarm chirps, replace only the battery.

Indiana and Illinois Are Areas Where Smoke Alarms Are Very Important

Here in our part of the country, the cold and long winters mean lots of heating of homes and workplaces in all sorts of ways, and heating gone wrong can mean fires erupt or carbon monoxide escapes. The Indiana State Fire Marshall, James Greeson reports:

“So far this year, there have been more than 30 fire fatalities in Indiana and several of those occurred in homes with no working smoke alarm. There’s no question that working smoke alarms save lives.”

In Indiana, many people may be able to get a free smoke alarm from their local firehouse if they are in certain situations (seniors, at-risk, low income, etc.).

Indiana State Fire Marshall suggests doing more than the NFPA guidelines. From Fire Marshall Greeson:

  1. The best advice is to have a smoke alarm outside of each sleeping area. At the minimum, there should be one alarm on each floor of the home, including the basement.
  2. Test all smoke alarms every month to ensure they are working properly.
  3. Purchase long-life smoke alarms with lithium-powered batteries. Regular batteries should be changed at least once a year, preferably twice.
  4. Replace any smoke alarms that are more than 10 years old.
  5. Occasionally remove any dust from the front of the smoke alarm.
  6. Devise a family escape plan and practice it at least every six months. Plans should include at least two different ways each family member could escape various parts of the house.
  7. Designate a special place outside of the home where family members are to meet after escaping a fire; and
  8. For those renting a home or apartment, it is the landlord’s responsibility to have at least one working smoke alarm and it’s the law.

In Illinois, similar special fire dangers are faced by everyone going through the cold winters here (especially this year). From Illinois State Fire Marshall Larry Matkaitis:

“Safety starts at home. One basic step is to change your smoke alarm batteries on Saturday before going to bed. Illinois law requires every household to have smoke alarms within 15 feet of every bedroom, and at least one on each floor of the home.”

Additional guidelines from Illinois’ State Fire Marshall:

  1. According to the Illinois Smoke Detector Act, smoke alarms should be installed within 15 feet of all sleeping areas, with at least one on each floor including the basement.
  2. For residents that have hard-wired smoke alarms, there must be a battery backup in case of a power outage.
  3. For hearing impaired family members, consider installing an alarm that combines flashing lights with sound and/or a bed vibrating alarm.
  4. Read the manufacturer’s directions before installing your smoke detectors. Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Ceiling mounted alarms should be installed at least six inches away from the nearest wall; wall-mounted alarms should be installed 4 to 6 inches away from the ceiling.
  5. Don’t install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.
  6. Never paint smoke alarms. Paint, stickers, or other decorations could interfere with the alarm’s ability to sound.


Those who are responsible for active and working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms need to take the time this week to make sure those alarms are doing their job in case a fire breaks out or carbon monoxide begins to leak from a heater, etc. Others may be depending upon you to do your duty and insure that these smoke alarms and CO alarms are working properly. Be careful out there!

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