Most parents know that having a smoke alarm in their home is an essential way to protect their family from fires and burns in their home.
Of course, having a smoke alarm isn't enough though. The key to a good fire safety plan is having a working smoke alarm.
Why would your smoke alarm stop working?
Some smoke alarms stop working because they are simply too old and break, especially if they are more than 10 years old. More commonly though, smoke alarms don't work because the smoke alarm battery is dead, the smoke alarm batteries have been removed, or they have been disconnected.
If your smoke alarm doesn't work, it isn't going to do your family any good if there is a fire in your home. This is likely why two-thirds of the deaths in home fires are in homes that either didn't have a smoke detector (40%) or didn't have a working smoke detector (23%).
Smoke Alarm Batteries
In addition to testing your smoke alarm each month, replacing your smoke alarm batteries each year is the best way to make sure that your smoke alarm will work if you need it.
Replacing your smoke alarm batteries at the beginning or end of Daylight Savings Time is a great way to remember this important job.
Can't you just wait until for the smoke alarm beeping that will alert you that your smoke alarm batteries need to be replaced?
That's a bad idea for many reasons, including that:
- the smoke alert beeping might happen in the middle of a night, waking everyone up, which is a big nuisance
- if you don't have replacement smoke alarm batteries ready, you might be tempted to remove the batteries or disconnect your smoke alarm to stop the beeping, which decreases your protection from a fire until you remember to get your smoke alarm working again
- you might not get the warning alert if you are not home for an extended period of time and your smoke alarm batteries go totally dead.
Replacing Smoke Alarm Batteries
Almost all smoke alarms need to have their batteries replaced each year, including hard-wired smoke alarms with a battery backup. The only exceptions are usually hard-wired smoke alarms that don't have a battery backup and smoke alarms that have a 10-year battery that can't be replaced. Instead, you simply replace the whole smoke alarm every 10 years.
Other fire safety tips about replacing smoke alarm batteries include that you should:
- read the manual or label on your smoke alarm and follow all directions, including which type of replacement battery is best to use, before changing your smoke alarm batteries.
- avoid using rechargeable batteries in your smoke alarm, since smoke alarm manufacturers advise against using them.
- change the batteries in your carbon monoxide alarm at the same time that you change your smoke alarm batteries.
- clean your smoke alarm when you change the batteries each year.
- never disconnect the batteries if you are getting frequent nuisance alarms. Replace or move your smoke alarm instead.
National Fire Protection Association. Smoke Alarm Basics. Accessed October 2010.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Your Home Fire Safety Checklist. Accessed October 2010.
National Fire Protection Association. "U.S. Experience with Smoke Alarms and Other Fire Detection/Alarm Equipment" by Marty Ahrens, September 2009.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 10 Leading Causes of Unintentional Injury Deaths, United States, 2007.