Smart Alarm Choices

Smart Alarm Choices

Smart Alarm Choices an online toolkit

This toolkit was created to help fire service leaders with educational materials to promote advanced smoke alarm education among their personnel and community.

Supported by:
Kidde 
Why Was the Program Developed?
Every home needs smoke alarms
More Public Education Videos

Fire experts recommend that smoke alarms are installed on each floor, in hallways and inside of all sleeping areas. Unfortunately, too many homes are not properly protected with enough working smoke alarms, or they are not tested and maintained. That leaves the people who live in the homes at great risk.

There are many challenges with educating the public about smoke alarms. Technology is changing in the smoke alarm industry; media coverage can be confusing with conflicting information about the effectiveness of smoke alarm and widespread budget cuts in fire department public education programs.

This toolkit was developed in conjunction with Kidde and support of the IAFC Fire and Life Safety section. Bookmark this site and check back regularly as resources will continue to be updated.


Featured Resources

Smart Choices in Smoke Alarm Placement

On average, families have less than three minutes from the time the first smoke alarm soundsHome is where most people feel the safest – but it’s also where you are most likely to experience a fatal fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 75 percent of all fire deaths – close to 2,980 people every year – occur in a home. Many of these deaths could have been prevented with working smoke alarms. Most fire deaths happen in the 40 percent of homes that do not have smoke alarms or 17 percent where the smoke alarms are not working the NFPA noted.

While three-fourths of U.S. homes have at least one working alarm, often there are not enough smoke alarms to protect residents. Model code NFPA 72 requires newly constructed homes to have hardwired, interconnected smoke alarms on each floor, in hallways and inside of all sleeping areas. But more than 84 million homes – most built prior to 1993 –have isolated battery- or electric-powered smoke alarms. Millions more do not have an alarm inside bedrooms or sleeping areas. Simply put, residents without enough working smoke alarms are not fully protected and therefore at increased risk.

Studies have shown that a fire can become deadly in less than 3 minutes from the time the first smoke alarm sounds. This is due to construction features and furniture and contents that are made out of synthetics (UL and National Institute of Standards and Technology). The sooner an alarm is heard, the more time there is to respond.

To protect all residents in a home, working UL-listed smoke alarms should be installed inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, in or near the kitchen, at least 20 feet from cooking appliances and on every level of the home, including the basement.

Bedroom
  • Roughly 65 percent of home fire deaths are caused by fires in just three rooms: living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens. (NFPA)
  • Half (52%) of all home fire deaths occur between 11 PM and 7 AM when most people are asleep. (NFPA)
  • Since it is recommended to sleep with bedroom doors closed to assist in limiting the spread of a fire, it is important to place alarms within each bedroom as the shut door can cut the decibel level of an alarm outside of the room nearly in half – from 85 db to 46 db. (CPSC)
Kitchen
  • Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and injuries in the United States, and the second leading cause of home fire deaths. (NFPA)
  • 49% of reported home fires start in the kitchen, resulting in 21% of home fire deaths. (NFPA)
  • Install smoke alarms at least 20 feet from cooking appliances to prevent nuisance alarms. Also ensure the alarm has a hush button, which will temporarily halt the alarm during a nonemergency.
Hallways
  • Because sleeping areas are often located furthest from the exits of a house, it is important that smoke alarms be installed in the hallways and on all exit routes from bedrooms.
  • Install smoke alarms on the hallway ceiling outside of sleeping areas.
Living Area
  • Although only 4% of home fires start in the living room, family room, or den, these fires cause 24% of deaths. (NFPA)
  • After the bedroom, most smoking-related fires occur in the living room. (NFPA)
  • People who smoke should go outside and use a deep, sturdy ashtray. Make sure cigarettes and butts are out before they are thrown out. Put them out in water or sand.
Alarm Installation Tips
  • Install at least one smoke alarm on each level or story of a multi-story home, inside and outside of sleeping areas, in hallways, and living/kitchen areas.
  • Since smoke travels up, smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling or high on a wall. Mount on the ceiling as close to the center as possible and at least four inches away from the wall.
  • Install alarms 20 feet away from "sources of combustion particles" (stoves, furnace, water heater, etc.) that could cause nuisance alarms, such as in the kitchen.
  • Install 10 feet away from bathrooms or other damp, humid areas. The steam can often set off nuisance alarms.
  • Do not install in areas where the temperature is below 40 or higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, such as an attic. Colder or warmer temperatures might set off false alarms and shorten the life of the alarm’s battery.
  • The living area smoke alarm should be installed in the living room and/or near the stairway leading to the upper level. The alarm should not be located in the stairway.
  • Smoke alarms should be placed in finished attics; the attic area smoke alarm should be located in the attic near the stairway from the floor below. (NFPA)
  • The basement smoke alarm should be installed in the basement, within 10 feet of the stairway. The alarm should not be located in the stairway. (NFPA)
  • If installed on an open joists ceiling, the alarm should be placed on the bottom of the joists. (NFPA)
  • If a hallway is more than 30 feet long, install a unit at each end. Smoke alarms should also be placed at the top of the first-to-second floor stairway, and at the bottom of the basement stairway. (Kidde recommendation)
  • Do not install in dusty, dirty or greasy areas – or near air vents, ceiling fans or other drafty areas (drafts can blow the smoke away from the smoke alarm, preventing the alarm from sounding).
  • Most importantly, install alarms according to manufacturer’s instructions in the owner’s manual.
Always remember: Smoke alarms do not last forever. Replace smoke alarms in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations or at least every 10 years. Additionally, test smoke alarms monthly.
  • Topics:
    • Featured Smart Alarm Choices
  • Resource Type:
    • Public education material
  • Organizational Author:
    • IAFC
    • External
    • Fire Life Safety Section
Smart Choices in Smoke Alarm Placement

On average, families have less than three minutes from the time the first smoke alarm soundsHome is where most people feel the safest – but it’s also where you are most likely to experience a fatal fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 75 percent of all fire deaths – close to 2,980 people every year – occur in a home. Many of these deaths could have been prevented with working smoke alarms. Most fire deaths happen in the 40 percent of homes that do not have smoke alarms or 17 percent where the smoke alarms are not working the NFPA noted.

While three-fourths of U.S. homes have at least one working alarm, often there are not enough smoke alarms to protect residents. Model code NFPA 72 requires newly constructed homes to have hardwired, interconnected smoke alarms on each floor, in hallways and inside of all sleeping areas. But more than 84 million homes – most built prior to 1993 –have isolated battery- or electric-powered smoke alarms. Millions more do not have an alarm inside bedrooms or sleeping areas. Simply put, residents without enough working smoke alarms are not fully protected and therefore at increased risk.

Studies have shown that a fire can become deadly in less than 3 minutes from the time the first smoke alarm sounds. This is due to construction features and furniture and contents that are made out of synthetics (UL and National Institute of Standards and Technology). The sooner an alarm is heard, the more time there is to respond.

To protect all residents in a home, working UL-listed smoke alarms should be installed inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, in or near the kitchen, at least 20 feet from cooking appliances and on every level of the home, including the basement.

Bedroom
  • Roughly 65 percent of home fire deaths are caused by fires in just three rooms: living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens. (NFPA)
  • Half (52%) of all home fire deaths occur between 11 PM and 7 AM when most people are asleep. (NFPA)
  • Since it is recommended to sleep with bedroom doors closed to assist in limiting the spread of a fire, it is important to place alarms within each bedroom as the shut door can cut the decibel level of an alarm outside of the room nearly in half – from 85 db to 46 db. (CPSC)
Kitchen
  • Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and injuries in the United States, and the second leading cause of home fire deaths. (NFPA)
  • 49% of reported home fires start in the kitchen, resulting in 21% of home fire deaths. (NFPA)
  • Install smoke alarms at least 20 feet from cooking appliances to prevent nuisance alarms. Also ensure the alarm has a hush button, which will temporarily halt the alarm during a nonemergency.
Hallways
  • Because sleeping areas are often located furthest from the exits of a house, it is important that smoke alarms be installed in the hallways and on all exit routes from bedrooms.
  • Install smoke alarms on the hallway ceiling outside of sleeping areas.
Living Area
  • Although only 4% of home fires start in the living room, family room, or den, these fires cause 24% of deaths. (NFPA)
  • After the bedroom, most smoking-related fires occur in the living room. (NFPA)
  • People who smoke should go outside and use a deep, sturdy ashtray. Make sure cigarettes and butts are out before they are thrown out. Put them out in water or sand.
Alarm Installation Tips
  • Install at least one smoke alarm on each level or story of a multi-story home, inside and outside of sleeping areas, in hallways, and living/kitchen areas.
  • Since smoke travels up, smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling or high on a wall. Mount on the ceiling as close to the center as possible and at least four inches away from the wall.
  • Install alarms 20 feet away from "sources of combustion particles" (stoves, furnace, water heater, etc.) that could cause nuisance alarms, such as in the kitchen.
  • Install 10 feet away from bathrooms or other damp, humid areas. The steam can often set off nuisance alarms.
  • Do not install in areas where the temperature is below 40 or higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, such as an attic. Colder or warmer temperatures might set off false alarms and shorten the life of the alarm’s battery.
  • The living area smoke alarm should be installed in the living room and/or near the stairway leading to the upper level. The alarm should not be located in the stairway.
  • Smoke alarms should be placed in finished attics; the attic area smoke alarm should be located in the attic near the stairway from the floor below. (NFPA)
  • The basement smoke alarm should be installed in the basement, within 10 feet of the stairway. The alarm should not be located in the stairway. (NFPA)
  • If installed on an open joists ceiling, the alarm should be placed on the bottom of the joists. (NFPA)
  • If a hallway is more than 30 feet long, install a unit at each end. Smoke alarms should also be placed at the top of the first-to-second floor stairway, and at the bottom of the basement stairway. (Kidde recommendation)
  • Do not install in dusty, dirty or greasy areas – or near air vents, ceiling fans or other drafty areas (drafts can blow the smoke away from the smoke alarm, preventing the alarm from sounding).
  • Most importantly, install alarms according to manufacturer’s instructions in the owner’s manual.
Always remember: Smoke alarms do not last forever. Replace smoke alarms in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations or at least every 10 years. Additionally, test smoke alarms monthly.
  • Topics:
    • Featured Smart Alarm Choices
  • Resource Type:
    • Public education material
  • Organizational Author:
    • IAFC
    • External
    • Fire Life Safety Section

News

Nov 14, 2020

Trend Towards 10-Year Technology

Suggestions for replacing alarms.

Nov 14, 2020

Do Not Be Left Under Protected

If your home was built before 1993, here are optimum locations of smoke alarms.

Dec 04, 2019

Don't Fall Victim to Carbon Monoxide, the "Invisible Killer"

Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is called the "Invisible Killer" because it's a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. More than 150 people in the Unites States die every year from accidental non-fire related CO poisoning associated with consumer products, including generators.

Nov 20, 2019

DHS Releases New “Cyber Essentials” Resources to Promote Cybersecurity

The IAFC recommends that fire chiefs review the actions described in the Cyber Essentials to protect your fire department from cyber-attacks.

Nov 12, 2019

What You Need to Know About the New Smoke Alarms

It's critical to have working smoke alarms installed on every floor of your home, including inside and outside every sleeping area.

Nov 12, 2019

6 Ways to Reduce Cancer in the Fire Service

The key to being cancer-free is knowledge and the discipline apply that knowledge daily.

Oct 11, 2019

Firefighter Safety Culture Starts Behind the Wheel

A comprehensive emergency vehicle driver program demonstrates your organization’s culture of safety for your firefighters, as well as the general public, that encounters our emergency vehicles on the street.

Oct 11, 2019

Firefighters' Top 8 Characteristics of Effective Leaders

Firefighters weigh in on what makes a leader worthy of respect and loyalty.

Sep 18, 2019

Seven Ways to Make Community Risk Reduction a Focus of Your Department

An ever-present concern for any fire chief is our role in reducing the impact incidents have on our community.

May 06, 2019

Fire Sprinklers Save Lives; Pass It On

Home Fire Sprinkler Week is May 19-25, a great opportunity for you to raise awareness in your community about this life-saving technology and break down the myths and legislative barriers to its use.

Jan 04, 2019

Are You Using Your Equity Goggles?

At a public-education event, a young Asian boy said to me, “Wow, I didn’t know you could be a firefighter; could I be a firefighter too?” I'll never forget his words; this was the first time he had seen a firefighter who looked like him.

Nov 06, 2018

Fire and Life Safety: Experiencing Home Fires – Still a Real Problem

School visits, department open houses and old messages don’t resonate with average community members. Public apathy is still a real problem. Are we missing the mark on public education?

Oct 15, 2018

Community Risk Reduction: The Magic Pill?

In CRR, we make changes to reduce the risk we find among our organizations, business community and citizens. We have many ways to do this, but what we’re looking for is a change of heart and direction, not just a magic pill.

Oct 15, 2018

Making Community Risk Reduction Relevant

The IAFC’s new CRR Leadership Conference will educate and train chief officers and other fire service managers seeking to create, execute and evaluate measurably successful CRR platforms and programs.

Oct 15, 2018

Teaching and Technology: A Recipe for Safe Cooking

We know that cooking is the #1 cause of home fires and fire injuries in America, with $1 billion lost annually in property damage. An interest in technology that limits the high-end temperature of electric-coil elements is growing as a result.

Oct 15, 2018

Fire Sprinkler Incentives for Developers: A Win-Win

In a national survey of homebuilders and developers, 55% said they would be interested in building homes with fire sprinklers if they were offered incentives. However, only 6% had ever been offered them.

Sep 26, 2018

Fire Prevention Week: A Good Time to Reflect

This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme is "Look, Listen, Learn: Be Aware, Fire Can Happen Anywhere."

Sep 26, 2018

Executive Officer Leadership: “Fire Prevention” Is Outdated!

Am I suggesting the fire service do away with fire-prevention activities? Absolutely not! But are you doing a disservice to your responsibility to protect your community by using the label “fire prevention?”

Jun 28, 2018

Fire and Life Safety: Why Pursue Our Professional Credentials?

What’s the common denominator between obtaining coaching credentials and working for our fire service professional credentials? What value do these provide?

Mar 22, 2018

Kidde Recalls Dual Sensor Smoke Alarms

Recall involves models PI2010 and PI9010 of Kidde dual sensor.

Nov 02, 2017

Bringing the Fire Prevention Message Home

For the first time, the IAFC suggests that local community risk reduction campaigns promote the use of smoke alarms powered by 10-year batteries.

Oct 31, 2017

President’s Letter: Make Community Interaction Count

On the heels of Fire Prevention Week, it’s easy to appreciate the interaction and trust we have within our communities; the week is a magnificent example of harnessing tragedy to make positive change.

Aug 10, 2017

Using Data to Predict Fire, Technology to Detect Them

Listen to Jon Jay, doctoral student, talk about how to use data to predict where house fires are more likely to occur in a city, and to Nathan Armentrout, inventor of a device installed in vacant homes to detect smoke alarms.

Jul 18, 2017

A More Focused Approach for Installing Smoke Alarms in Homes

Listen to Chief McConnell and Director Wise explain how they went from installing 800 smoke alarms to 18,000 using data.

Jan 12, 2017

IAFC Expresses Condolences for Victims of Baltimore Fire

The IAFC expresses its deep condolences to the family and friends of six young children who reportedly perished during a residential house fire Thursday in Baltimore, Md. We commend the first responders who responded to the tragic scene.

Oct 04, 2016

A Simple Act on November 6 Can Buy Life-Saving Minutes Later

ST. LOUIS — Three minutes. That’s how much time families have on average to get out of their homes after an alarm from a smoke detector.* However, those life-saving minutes only occur when detectors are fully powered and operational. Fortunately, three ...

Feb 21, 2013

National Organizations Support Fire Sprinkler Legislation

On January 26, the world watched a great tragedy unfold as 235 people were killed in a nightclub fire in ...

Jun 01, 2011

IAFC and Kidde Partner for Home Fire Safety

Recognizing the need for improved education and awareness about home fire safety, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), with ...

Videos/Podcasts

 

Did you know?

  • 75% of all fatal fires occur in a residence.
  • Approximately 2,980 people die in the United States each year as the result of a fire in their home. 
  • Fire fatalities occur in the 40%% of homes that have no alarms, or 17% no working smoke alarms.

Source: (NFPA)

Contact

Derek Bullington
Program Coordinator
International Association of Fire Chiefs
(703) 537-4831
dbullington@iafc.org

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