Working Smoke Alarms Reduce Chances of Dying in Fire by Half

Press release from Cal Fire:

Smoke_alarm (1)Almost two-thirds of all home fire deaths occur in homes without a smoke alarm or no working smoke alarm. Working smoke alarms can reduce a person’s chance of dying in a home fire by half, and they provide the precious time needed to escape the home in the event of a fire. 50 percent of fire deaths result from fires reported at night between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when most people are asleep. Home smoke alarms can alert people to a fire before it spreads, giving family and friends enough time to get out.

“In a fire, seconds count,” said California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover. “Think of your smoke alarm as the nose or eyes on the ceiling just smelling or seeing. When it smells or sees products of combustion like smoke, it alarms everyone at home to the danger.”

October 4-10 is National Fire Prevention Week, which is a good time to make sure all homes have working smoke alarms on every level, in every sleeping area, and in the hallways leading to the sleeping areas. These alarms should be hard-wired with a battery backup in case of a power outage. In California, new smoke alarms have a ten year long battery life which means no need to change the battery!

According to the latest National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) research, working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a fire in half. Meanwhile, three out of five fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. So, what can residents do? Inspect all smoke alarms every month, clean them annually, and replace the entire smoke alarm every ten years.  If an alarm “chirps,” warning the battery is low, replace the smoke alarm battery immediately if the alarm is not a long life battery smoke alarm.

If a smoke alarm sounds, crawl low and go outside to your meeting place. Everyone should be able to do this in less than two minutes. Once outside, call 911. Make sure that nobody goes back inside for anything.

This Fire Prevention Week CAL FIRE is asking all Californians to improve their own safety by having working smoke alarms in every bedroom and on every level of your home. “Make sure you, your family, and guests know what to do when the alarm sounds because it could be the sound that saves your lives,” said Chief Hoover.

For more information about smoke alarms and home fire safety, visit the CAL FIRE website at

Image by By Sweetie candykim (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons



  • They also like to go off when you bake or broil anything for dinner, and to make loud chirps at you when you’re dead asleep so that you remember their batteries are low… and even sometimes just for drill. If you were “smart” enough to hardwire them in, you can enjoy them screaming their earsplitting tones whenever there’s a power outage. If you ask me, having enough ventilation and safe exits in your home is at least as good at life saving as these accursed contraptions.

    • “If you ask me, having enough ventilation and safe exits in your home is at least as good at life saving as these accursed contraptions”

      I feel your pain, but if you read carefully, you have a two times greater chance of dying in a house fire with your method. It seems like such a small inconvenience to put up with to keep your family safer. However, better ventilation and safer exits are a great idea.

      • Yeah, I think that would be based on broad statistics, including high rise apartments and multiple story homes with not enough safe exits. So, while those statistics are probably close enough, I think people in single level homes with enough doors and windows and air circulation are going to save themselves heart attacks and live through the fire.

        I’m touchy as heck about them because I’ve hit the ceiling from them going off for no good reason too many times. Have to admire HOW loud they make those puppies, enough to literally raise the dead, but I lose control of my whole body when they go off.

        I was in the middle of pulling a roast out of the oven once when the smoke alarm splatted me and the roast and all the drippings ALL over my kitchen. Scalded me and I was quaking so hard I could barely get around to see if there were any fire. I’d just bought the place. Didn’t know how much I could trust the wiring and so called the NON-emergency number to ask the fire department if they could send someone over to look.

        Three minutes later there were eight, fully-suited linebacker fire fighters running all over my house. Then one of them said it was opening the oven door that did me in. The heat rising immediately to the ceiling and setting off the alarm.

        I’m all, but, but, but… I said that on the phone!?!

        I’m pretty sure they were all bored and wanted to have some fun… or some practice… but that’s just one of my smoke-alarm-induced calamities. So I keep air flow in my house, exit doors close enough to sleeping spaces for split-second egress, and means to get out windows plotted just in case something really weird prevents exit from any of the doors… after jumping up and down on that contraption enough that it can’t even dream of a battery to warn about or an oven to lose its shit over for the rest of time.

        Actually, at this point, if I die in a fire anyway, everybody I know will be satisfied that I was okay with it… that it was fitting. “RIP nines | mortal smoke alarm hatred” on my headstone.

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