Smoke Alarms - the Single Most Important Means of Preventing Fatal Fires

When fire strikes you may have less than one minute to get out of the building.

  • Having working smoke alarms in your home can double you chances of survival if a fire occurs.
  • Home fire deaths have been cut in half since the early 1970's when smoke alarms were first marketed.
  • 40% of the fire deaths that occur each year in the U.S. take place in the 4% of homes without smoke alarms!

Fire produces heat, smoke and toxic gases.
Smoke alarms warn residents in the event of a fire. They give you time to leave the building before your escape route is blocked by deadly smoke, heat and toxic gases.

Smoke Alarms are available for the hearing impaired.
The alarm can be wired to a light, which flashes when the detector is in alarm. A vibrating alert unit can also be used under a pillow while the person is asleep.

Plan and practice a home fire escape route.

  • Have two ways out of every room.
  • Discuss the plan so each member of the family understands what to do in case of emergency.
  • Choose a place outside the home where family members can meet to be sure everyone is safely out of the building.

Practice, practice, practice…Conduct drills frequently so actions become automatic behaviors.

  • Hold a family fire drill during the day, while everyone is awake and another one at night while children are asleep to see how they respond.

Following the drill, make adjustments to the plan.

  • Does someone in the family, who may be too young or physically impaired, need assistance?
  • An adult can go to their room and help that person to an alternate escape route.
  • If a child sleeps through the alarm they may need to be awakened by an adult.
  • Consider purchasing a folding escape ladder as a secondary means of exit from upper floors.

When the alarm sounds:

  • Leave the building.
  • Get out; Stay out!
  • Go to the family meeting place.
  • Dial 9-1-1 from a neighbor's home.

Types of Smoke Alarms

All homes in Massachusetts are required to have smoke alarms and most are required to have carbon monoxide alarms MGL c.148 s.26F. To see more information on smoke alarm regulations or requirements for selling your home Guide to Massachusetts Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Requirements

We recommend all smoke detectors installed within 20 feet of kitchens and full bathrooms be photoelectric only detectors. The risk of nuisance alarms from steam and cooking is lower with photoelectric only detectors. We also recommend that smoke detectors installed outside of 20 feet of kitchens and bathrooms utilize both ionization and photoelectric technologies:

  • A dual detector (containing both ionization and photoelectric technologies): or
  • Two separate detectors (one photoelectric and one ionization).

Photoelectric vs. Ionization Technologies

Ionization smoke detectors:

  • Use radiation to detect smoke.
  • More effective in detecting flaming fires.
  • Increased risk of nuisance alarms caused by steam or cooking smoke.

Photoelectric smoke detectors:

  • Use light to detect smoke.
  • More effective in detecting smoldering fires, which have been attributed to more fires involving death.
  • Low voltage systems only use photoelectric detectors.

General guidelines for smoke alarm placement:

  • On every level of your home.
  • In hallways outside the bedroom.
  • At the top of open stairways.
  • At the base of cellar stairs.
  • Inside the bedroom for sound sleepers or smokers.

Contact your local fire department for exact locations required by the code.

In residences not subject to MGL c. 148, s. 26F (built after January 1975), the smoke detector upgrade is recommended, but is not required by law.

Maintenance:

  • Once a month vacuum or blow out dust from the alarms.
  • Push the test button.
  • Smoke alarms use regular batteries; change them at least once a year. An easy way to remember is to change the batteries when you change your clocks. A "chirping" sound indicates that it's time to change the batteries.
  • Don't paint smoke alarms!

Lifespan: Replace Ten Year Old Smoke Alarms
If your smoke alarms is ten years old or more it's time to replace them with new ones. There's a label on the alarm with the date of manufacture. If it doesn't have a label, it's already more than ten years old. If you don't know how old they are it's best to install new ones.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms Guide to Massachusetts Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Requirements pdf format of    consumers_guide_w_sell_1_and_2_fam.pdf
Since March 31, 2006, carbon monoxide alarms have been required in all residences that have either: fossil fuel burning equipment or an attached enclosed garage.  This law applied to all such residences whether or not the residence is being sold or transferred.