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Fire prevention month topic : smoke alarm basics

Firefighter holding a white smoke alarm in front of a red fire engine
A firefighter holding a combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarm

Get some piece of mind and check your smoke alarms today.

Smoke alarms provide critical notice when they detect smoke from a fire. The alert from a smoke alarm is meant to give you precious time to respond safely to a fire. It’s important to make sure that your smoke alarms are working properly, they are located in the right places, and you and your family know what to do when the alarm sounds.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, dead batteries caused one-quarter of the smoke alarm failures in home fires across the US. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire.

The Seattle Fire Department recommends that you install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and inside each bedroom.

As a reminder:

  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement
  • A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet (3 meters) from the stove
  • People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use alarms with strobe lights or that are linked to bed shakers
  • Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old

Make sure you have an evacuation plan for when the smoke alarm sounds or you discover fire. It’s important to get away from the fire and smoke before calling 911 to report the fire.

Be aware that if your smoke alarm momentarily sounds and there isn’t visible smoke or steam, it is possible that something else has triggered the smoke alarm such as a cob web or small insect. One of the best ways to avoid this problem is to vacuum around smoke alarms periodically. If the problem continues, it might be time to replace the smoke alarm. After cleaning smoke alarms, check them to make sure that they are working properly.

What kind of smoke alarm should I buy? (NFPA blog post)

Do you need combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms in your home? You may qualify for free smoke/carbon monoxide alarms from the Seattle Fire Department if you meet the following criteria:

  • You live in the City of Seattle
  • You own and live in your home
  • You are a senior or have a disability

To learn more or to request the installation of smoke/CO alarms in your home, fill out a request form or call the Seattle Fire Department’s Public Affairs unit at (206) 386-1337.