How often do smoke alarms need to be replaced? A national survey shows most Americans don’t know

Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 9-15, 2016, promotes the importance of replacing smoke alarms every 10 years

September 28, 2016 – How often should the smoke alarms in your home be replaced? If you don’t know, you’re not alone. A national survey conducted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows that nine out of 10 Americans don’t know how often smoke alarms need to be replaced. The correct answer: every 10 years.

As the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week, NFPA is promoting this year’s campaign theme, “Don’t Wait - Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years,” to better educate the public about this potentially life-saving message.

“While the public generally knows that smoke alarms play an important role in home fire safety, some smoke alarm messages are not as well understood,” says Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA. “Not knowing how often smoke alarms need to be replaced - or that they even have an expiration date - are among them.”

According to Carli, that lack of awareness means some U.S. homes may have smoke alarms that have outlasted their full functionality, putting people at increased risk in the event of a home fire. NFPA statistics show that three out of five U.S. home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or no working alarms.

Key survey findings

  • Half of Americans (50 percent) have three or more smoke alarms in their current home.
  • Almost one in five Americans who have smoke alarms (19 percent) say the oldest smoke alarm they currently have in their home is 10+ years old.
  • Nearly one in five Americans who have smoke alarms (18 percent) are not at all sure how old the oldest smoke alarm they currently have in their home is.
  • When asked how often they should replace smoke alarms, nine in 10 Americans (90 percent) did not select the correct answer, which is once every 10 years.
“Working smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in a home fire in half,” said Carli. “That’s why it’s so important to make sure they’re working properly.”

A smoke alarm’s age can be determined by looking on the back or side of the smoke alarm, where the date of manufacture can be found. Smoke alarms should be replaced 10 years from that date (not the date of purchase or installation). In addition, smoke alarms should be tested monthly, and batteries should be replaced when they begin to chirp, signaling that they’re running low.

Fire departments throughout the U.S. and Canada play a key role in making Fire Prevention Week an annual success by implementing the campaign in their communities; departments throughout North America will be hosting open houses and other local events throughout the week of October 9-15.

For more information on smoke alarms and this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, visit

About Fire Prevention Week

NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week since 1922. According to the National Archives and Records Administration's Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation declaring a national observance during that week every year since 1925. Visit for more safety information.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global, nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information visit All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at

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Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275