Reports and statistics about smoke alarms

Smoke alarms by the numbers

  • In 2007-2011, smoke alarms sounded in half of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments.
  • Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • No smoke alarms were present in more than one-third (37%) of the home fire deaths.
  • In one-quarter (23%) of the home fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound.
  • In reported home fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, almost half (47%) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries. Nuisance alarms were the leading reason for disconnected smoke alarms.

Download and duplicate a free NFPA fact sheet about smoke alarms. (PDF,232 KB)

Ninety-six percent of all homes1 in the United States have at least one smoke alarm, according to a 2010 telephone survey. Based on these results, almost five million households still do not have any smoke alarms.

Reported home structure fires and fire deaths by smoke alarm performance
NFPA offers the following free resources on smoke alarms and related issues:

Report: Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires
March 2014
Smoke alarms have become such a common feature in U.S. homes that it is easy to take them for granted. Newspapers often report fires in which blaring smoke alarms alerted sleeping occupants to danger. This report includes statistics on home smoke alarm usage, effectiveness, operationality, and home fire fatalities in fires with and without working smoke alarms. Also includes home fire death rate with different combinations of fire protection equipment. Brief discussion of literature on audibility and waking effectiveness.

Project: Smoke Alarm Nuisance Source Characterization (PDF, 122 KB)
November 2013
The overall objective of this Fire Protection Research Foundation project is to characterize common nuisance sources for the development of new performance test protocols in ANSI/UL 217 and ANSI/UL 268 product standards in order to meet the NFPA 72-2013 requirements intended to reduce nuisance alarms.

Article: Smoke Alarm Presence and Performance in U.S. Home Fires (PDF, 485 KB)
October 2010
The vast majority of U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm. For smoke alarms to be effective, they must have a functional power source, be close enough to the smoke to activate,
they must be heard, and occupants must take appropriate action. By NFPA's Marty Ahrens, published in Fire Technology.

Report: Waking Effectiveness of Alarms for Adults Who Are Hard of Hearing (PDF, 803 KB)
June 2007
In April 2006, the Fire Protection Research Foundation was awarded a grant to study the effectiveness of alarms for emergency notification of high risk groups. The study's aim was to optimize the performance requirements for alarm and signaling systems to meet the needs of these groups.

Report: Waking Effectiveness of Alarms for the Alcohol Impaired
June 2007
In April 2006, the Fire Protection Research Foundation was awarded a grant to study the effectiveness of alarms for emergency notification of high risk groups. The study's aim was to optimize the performance requirements for alarm and signaling systems to meet the needs of these groups.

Report: Reducing Fire Deaths in Older Adults: Optimizing the Smoke Alarm Signal (Investigation of Auditory Arousal with Different Alarm Signals in Sleeping Older Adults)
May 2006
Smoke alarm and signaling systems are a proven strategy for reduction of fire fatalities in the general population. However, studies have shown that the elderly do not fully benefit from conventional smoke alarm systems, particularly during the sleeping hours. In April 2005, the Fire Protection Research Foundation was awarded a grant to study this topic.

1 Homes include one- and two-family dwellings, manufactured homes, apartments and other multi-family housing.

Featured Product
Smoke Alarms are Important Brochures
NFPA®'s new fire safety brochure and its online music video remind kids to jump to their feet when the smoke alarm sounds!
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NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code and Handbook Set, 2013 Edition
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Smoke Alarms: A sound you can live with! DVD
Show the Smoke Alarms: A sound you can live with! DVD and teach families how smoke alarms can make a life-or-death difference.
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