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Smoke Detectors Save Lives

Updated on November 28, 2016

Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors are small white devices used to detect smoke and heat. Many full-time fire departments will install them for free. Call your local fire station and ask them do they have a smoke detector program.

On my fire department, we install smoke detectors all of the time. The American Red Cross also have smoke detector blitz in which they canvass neighborhoods to install smoke alarms. However, it always seems like there are citizens without smoke detectors. I have witnessed many fire deaths, and a great deal of them was preventable.

People often are mistaken that it is the fire that kills people, but it is the smoke that kills them. The inhalation of poisonous gas that comes from cleaning material, furniture, and building material is dangerous. The key element in the smoke is Carbon Monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas.

Carbon Monoxide is lethal due to the molecules attaching to hemoglobin, and decreasing the blood's ability to carry oxygen. Detectors work great, especially while people are asleep.


Fire Death Statistics

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were 1,240,000 fires in the year 2013. The data for the year 2014-2016 is not yet available. Of those fires, the causes were:

  • 50% Cooking
  • 12.5 Heating
  • 6.3% Electrical malfunction

Fire deaths in the same year were 3,240.

  • More men die and are injured in fires than women.
  • People the ages 84 and older has the highest death rates.
  • Fires caused 11.5 billion in loss in 2013.
  • Most fires and fire deaths happen on Residential property.

Do you have a working smoke detector in your home?

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What Type Of Smoke Alarm Is Best For Your Home?

Smoke Detector Maintenance

Smoke detector batteries should be changed preferably when daylight saving times change. But, if it starts to chirp, then it is time to replace the battery. One detector per floor is the minimum, but it is suggested to have one in every room if you can afford it.

Home Maintenance & Repair Tips: How to Test Your Smoke Detector

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The difference between a smoke alarm and smoke detector

  • Smoke Detector- Alarm initiating device designed to actuate when visible or invisible products of combustion are present in the room or space where the unit is installed.
  • Smoke Alarm- a device designed to sound an alarm when the products of combustion are present in the room where the device is installed. The alarm is built into the device rather than being a separate system.

There are four basic smoke detectors:

  • Pneumatic rate-of-rise-spot detector
  • Pneumatic rate-of-rise line detector
  • Rate-compensated detector
  • Thermoelectric detector

Smoke Detector Statistics

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA):

  • Three in every five deaths was the result of homes with no smoke detector.
  • In 2009-2013 smoke alarms sounded in 53% of reported fires (Current data is not available).
  • Death rates are twice as high in homes with no smoke detector.

Having a smoke detector gives residents a fighting chance in an event of a fire. There is not a price you can put on your life when it comes to the cost of an alarm. If the fire department is called to installed a detector in your home, they will usually inspect the ones you already have. Next, they will ask a series of question such as:

  • How many people live in the home?
  • What are the age range of those living in the home?
  • Do anyone smoke that live in the home?
  • Do you and your family have an escape plan in case of a fire?

The questions above are for documentation, but they also get the customers attention about fire safety. On a smoke detector installation sheet, the fire service use them to continue receiving grants for smoke detectors. It's near the holidays, and everyone is cooking food, which is the leading cause of fires in residential structures.

Fire Escape Plan

An escape plan comes hand-in-hand with smoke detector safety. If the alarm sounds, where will your family go? How will they get out of the house? Each family should come together and discuss an escape plan. Everybody's living conditions are not the same, and with that said everyone's plan would be different.

Some suggestions are, meeting at a neighbor's house, or the tree in the front yard. Do you have an escape ladder, if your home is more than one story? What window in the home will your family attempt to get out of? If you can't answer these questions, then you need a plan.

If you have young kids, it will help to educate them on fire safety and what to do in a fire. Children don't know the dangers of the smoke and may try to escape through the smoke, only to fail because of smoke inhalation. Training them to get out of windows or the nearest door, maybe the training to save their lives. Also, teach your kids about the purpose of smoke detectors.


Fires kill thousands of people every year, of those fires, 53% were the result of cooking. Three in every five deaths was the result of homes with no working smoke detector. Adults 85 years or older have the highest mortality rates in fires.

A smoke detector in your home could prevent death and even a fire. Each home should have a working detector at a minimum of one per floor of a home but preferably in every room. Local fire departments are known for having grants that allow them to receive free smoke detectors to install in civilian homes.

Having a fire escape plan increases life safety for your family. Please watch the video above and develop a plan of your own or the ones suggested. Remember to change batteries especially when they begin to chirp. Try to purchase longer lasting batteries to prevent from having to replace them often. Use safe cooking practices, never leave food unattended, never leave home with a dryer on, don't fall asleep with candles on, and keep items away from space heaters. All of it can prevent fires. Be safe!

Don't let this be your home


Work cited

IFSTA. (2008). Essentials of fire fighting (5th ed.). Stillwater, OK: Fire Protection Publications.



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