Testing smoke alarm REVISED

The Importance of Smoke Alarms, Home Escape Planning and Home Fire Sprinklers Remain Critical messages during Fire Prevention Week

Cooking safety is the focus of this year's Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen” for good reason: Cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fires and injuries and the second-leading cause of fire fatalities. While everyone has been working diligently to better educate the public about common causes of home cooking fires and ways to prevent them, it's also important to address smoke alarms and home escape planning when and where possible.

Keep these key points in mind when talking about smoke alarms, home escape planning and practice, as well as home fire sprinklers:

Smoke alarms: Smoke alarms are your first line of defense. Having working smoke alarms in your home reduces your risk of dying in a fire by 54 percent compared to in homes with no smoke alarms or alarms that aren't working. Make sure smoke alarms are properly installed, tested and maintained, as follows:

  • NFPA requires at least one smoke alarm on every level of the home, in each bedroom, and near all sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly by pushing the test button
  • Replace smoke alarm batteries when they begin to chirp, signaling that the batteries are running low.
  • Consider installing interconnected alarms, so that when one smoke alarm sounds, they all do.
  • Smoke alarms don't last forever; replace them every 10 years or sooner if they're not functioning properly.

Home escape planning and practice: Today's homes burn faster than ever. In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Using that time wisely is critical to safety from fire, but it takes planning and practice.


Developing a home fire escape plan with all members of your household and practicing it regularly, at least twice a year, helps ensure that everyone knows what to do when the smoke alarm sounds. A home escape plan includes the


  • Two ways out of every room, typically a door and a window
  • A path from each exit to the outside
  • A meeting place outside in front of the home where everyone will meet upon exiting
  • Everyone in the home knowing how to call the fire department once safely outside
  • Remembering that once you're outside to stay out. Never go back inside a burning building

Use our home escape planning grid to help people create and practice a home escape plan.

Home fire sprinklers: The presence of home fire sprinklers can increase the chances of surviving a home fire by 87 percent. People age 65 and older are at the highest risk of dying in a home fire, while children, pets, and those with disabilities are also at increased risk.

While newer building techniques provided great benefits over the years, unprotected lightweight construction combined

pastedImage_15with synthetic materials and open floor plans can result in fires that burn faster and at higher temperatures. Being alerted quickly with smoke alarms and controlling the fire as soon as it is detected with home fire sprinklers are an integral part of a home fire protection strategy, along with a practiced escape plan, can minimize the likelihood of tragedy that fires can incur.

Download our fact sheet to help spread the facts about the life-saving measures of home fire sprinkler systems. For more information, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative webpage.

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Susan McKelvey
Communications Manager

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