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Smoke Alarms / Fire Extinguishers

Smoke Alarms

  • If smoke alarms are not already in place, install them outside each sleeping area and on each additional level of your home in accordance with local codes. Smoke alarms cut your chances of dying in a home fire nearly in half. Smoke alarms sense abnormal amounts of smoke or invisible combustion gases in the air. They can detect both smoldering and flaming fires. The National Fire Alarm Code(r) (NFPA 72) now requires hard- wired smoke alarms in new homes.
  • If people sleep with doors closed, install smoke alarms inside sleeping areas too. If a fire occurs inside the room, dangerous gases can cause heavier sleep. Smoke alarms inside bedrooms will be more likely to wake you.
  • Vacuum cobwebs and dust from your smoke alarms monthly. Smoke alarms are less sensitive when they are dirty. Keep them operating most efficiently.
  • Use the test button to test your smoke alarms once a month. The test feature tests all electronic functions and is safer than testing with a controlled fire (matches, lighters, cigarettes). If necessary, replace batteries immediately. Make sure children know what your smoke alarm sounds like.
  • If you have battery-powered smoke alarms, replace batteries at least once a year. Some agencies recommend you replace batteries when the time changes from standard daylight savings each spring and again in the fall. "Change your clock, change your batteries," is a positive theme and has become a common phrase. While replacing batteries this often certainly will not hurt, available data show that batteries will last at least a year, so more frequent replacement is not necessary. Also, time does not change in Arizona, Hawaii, the eastern portion of Indiana, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Guam.
  • Replace your smoke alarms every 10 years. Smoke alarms become less sensitive over time. This is a joint recommendation by the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Fire Extinguishers

  • Consider having one or more working fire extinguishers in your home. There are three home fire extinguisher ratings: "A" rated extinguishers are for wood or paper fires only; "B" rated extinguishers are for flammable liquid and grease fires; and "C" rated extinguishers are for electrical fires. You can get fire extinguishers that have multiple ratings. An extinguisher rated A-B-C is recommended for home use. Smaller fire extinguishers are designed for one-time use and cannot be recharged.
  • Get training from the fire department or a fire extinguisher manufacturer on how to use your fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers from various manufacturers operate in different ways. Unless you know how to use your extinguisher, you may not be able to use it effectively. There is no time to read directions during an emergency. Only adults should handle and use extinguishers.
  • Install extinguishers high on the wall, near an exit and away from heat sources. Extinguishers should be easily accessible to adults trained to use them, and kept away from children's curious hands. Heat may make the contents less effective or cause the extinguisher to lose its charge more quickly.
  • If you try to use a fire extinguisher on a fire and the fire does not immediately die down, drop the extinguisher and get out. Most portable extinguishers empty in 8 to 10 seconds. After some residential fires, people have been found dead with fire extinguishers near them or in their arms.
  • Look at your fire extinguisher to ensure it is properly charged. Fire extinguishers will not work properly if they are not properly charged. Use the gauge or test button to check proper pressure. Follow manufacturer's instructions for replacement or recharging fire extinguishers. If the unit is low on pressure, damaged, or corroded, replace it or have it professionally serviced.


Information compiled from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.