Smoke Alarms

Fire Prevention Week October 5-11 2014

What Does Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow, Chicago, and October Have In Common?

Do you give up?   Back on October 8, 1871, legend has it, that one of Mrs. O’Leary’s cows kicked over a lamp, setting the barn on fire, which spread to the city.  The Great Chicago Fire killed more than 250 people and left approximately 100,00 homeless.  The fire burned more than 2,000 acres, and destroyed more than 17,000 structures.  Now of course, we may never know what the true cause of the Great Chicago Fire, but we do know that since 1922 the Sunday through Saturday upon which October 9th falls, has been known as National Fire Prevention Week.


Smoke alarmsThis year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week is “Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month.”  Here are several facts about fire and smoke alarms from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). 

  • In 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to 370,000 home structure fires. These fires caused 13,910 civilian injuries, 2,520 civilian deaths, $6.9 billion in direct damage.
  • Cooking is the leading cause home fires and home fire injuries, followed heating equipment.
  • Most fatal fires kill one or two people. In 2012, 8 home fires killed five or more people resulting in a total of 44 deaths.
  • Almost three of five (60%) of reported home fire deaths in 2007 to 2011 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.
  • Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fire in half.
  • In fire considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 93% of the time, while battery powered alarms operated only 79% of the time.
  • When smoke alarms fail to operate, it is usually because batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead.


So do you test your smoke alarm monthly?  Or are you the type of person who checks it out only when it’s chirping in the middle of the night, because the battery needs to be change.  Just like changing the filters for your heating and cooling system, checking your smoke alarms is general maintenance for the safety of the family.  According to NFPA, “In fires considered large enough to activate the smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 93% of the time, while battery powered alarms operated only 79% of the time.”  This is a great reason to check smoke alarms along with changing the batteries.

smoke alarms

It seems the only time a smoke alarm’s battery starts to go bad, or the unit starts chirping, is in the middle of night.  Am I right?  If youare tired of being woken up in the middle of the night by the chirping, or tired of changing batteries in the smoke alarms, then consider a smoke alarm that has a lithium battery.  These types of smoke alarms are “sealed” meaning you cannot open them, and never has to have the battery changed.  Now please keep in mind, NO smoke alarm lasts forever.  Units should be changed out, or replaced roughly every 10 years.  Not sure when you put that newer smoke alarm in place?  Write the date, on the unit, when you installed the smoke alarm.


Now that we have the smoke alarm in place, and working, we now need to practice our home fire escape plan.  Does your family have a a fire escape plan?  How often do you practice it?  According to an NFPA survey, only one-third of Americans have both developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. For more information about how to develop an escape plan, visit the NFPA site.


Be sure to visit your local fire department.  Most of them are having an open house, with activities for the kids.  Be well, and be safe!


SCS Safety Health & Security Associates assists businesses with developing an emergency response plan.  If your company is interested in this service, please contact us.