It’s important to have enough smoke alarms in your home. Fire research has demonstrated that with today’s modern furnishings, fires can spread much more rapidly than in the past when more natural materials were used. Because of this, having a sufficient number of properly located smoke alarms is essential to maximize the amount of available escape time. For many years NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, has required as a minimum that smoke alarms be installed inside every sleep room (even for existing homes) in addition to requiring them outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. (Additional smoke alarms are required for larger homes.) Homes built to earlier standards often don’t meet these minimum requirements. Homeowners and enforcement authorities should recognize that detection needs have changed over the years and take proactive steps make sure that every home has a sufficient complement of smoke alarms.
If you need assistance in obtaining a smoke alarm for your residence, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign may be able to help!
Installing smoke alarms
Testing smoke alarms
Interconnected smoke alarms increase safety. In a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) survey of households with any fires, including fires in which the fire department was not called, interconnected smoke alarms were more likely to operate and alert occupants to a fire.1 People may know about a fire without hearing a smoke alarm. When smoke alarms (interconnected or not) were on all floors, they sounded in 37% of fires and alerted occupants in 15%. When smoke alarms were not on all floors, they sounded in only 4% of the fires and alerted occupants in only 2%. In homes that had interconnected smoke alarms, the alarms sounded in half (53%) of the fires and alerted people in one-quarter (26%) of the fires.
1 Michael A. Greene and Craig Andres. 2004-2005 National Sample Survey of Unreported Residential Fires. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, July 2009.
Download the smoke alarm safety tip sheet.