Smoke Detectors - keeping them working and current can save lives

  • Published
  • By Fire Prevention Office
  • Edwards AFB
Do you have a working smoke detector? Do you know how to test the device? Did you know that most smoke detector manufacturers recommend replacement every 10 years?
Based on a telephone survey done in 2008, 96 percent of all homes have at least one smoke alarm. Overall, three-quarters of all U.S. homes have at least one working smoke alarm.

The 2000-2004 statistics derived from the U.S Fire Administration's National Fire Incident Reporting System and NFPA's annual fire department experience survey show that:

- Smoke alarms sounded in roughly half of the home fires reported to U.S. departments.

- Sixty-five percent of reported home fire deaths from 2003 to 2006 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarm or no working smoke alarm.

- No smoke alarm was present in 43 percent of the home fire deaths.

- In 23 percent of the home fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound.

- The death rate per 100 reported fires is twice as high in homes without working smoke alarms (1.13) as homes with working smoke alarms (0.55)

- An estimated 890 lives could be saved each year if all homes had working smoke alarms.

Reasons for Smoke Alarm Failure

Nuisance alarms were the leading reason for disconnected smoke alarms. In more than half of the reported fires in which the smoke alarms did not operate, batteries were missing or disconnected. Roughly one out of every five smoke alarm failures was due to dead batteries.

Two-thirds of the smoke alarms in non-confined home structure fires are battery-operated. Homes built after 1980 are more likely to have hardwired smoke alarms. Hardwired smoke alarms tend to be interconnected so that if one sounds, all will sound. This can provide earlier warning throughout the home regardless of the location of the fire and the location of the occupants. Only 7 percent of the failures found in the 2000-2004 study were due to hardwired power-source problems.

An Ounce of Prevention

Following the procedures listed below will help ensure your smoke alarm is working and that you and your family know what to do in case of activation:

A life-saving test: check smoke alarms regularly

- Test smoke alarms once a month following the manufacturer's instructions.

- Replace the batteries in smoke alarm once a year, or as soon as the alarm chirps to warn you that the battery is low. Tip: schedule battery replacements for the same day you change your clocks from daylight savings time to standard time in the fall.

- Never borrow a battery from a smoke alarm. Smoke alarms cannot warn you of fire if their batteries are missing or have been disconnected.

- Don't disable smoke alarms even temporarily.

- Regularly vacuuming or dusting your smoke alarms - following the manufacturer's instructions - can keep them working properly.

- Plan regular fire drills to ensure that everyone knows exactly what to do when the smoke alarm sounds. Hold a drill at night to make sure that sleeping family members awaken at the sound of the alarm. Some studies have shown that some children may not wake-up to the sound of the smoke alarm. Know what your child will do before a fire occurs.

Edwards Fire Department Message

The Edwards Fire Department would like to reaffirm the importance of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors already in base housing and dormitories. It is essential to the overall safety of personnel to ensure they are working properly and are not removed or disabled.

Those in base housing can call the Housing Maintenance office at 258-4461 or 258-4462 for help concerning a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector or home fire extinguisher. Those in the dormitories can call 277-6783.

If anyone has questions regarding this, or any other fire safety issue, just call the Edwards AFB Fire Prevention Division at 661-277-3643/3124.

Remember; in case of an emergency dial 911 from a duty or housing phone, if you are calling from a cell phone call 661-277-4540/4541.

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