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Smoke alarms can save lives. Are your alarms working?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 | 09:17am

NASHVILLE, TN – Every day in the United States, needless home fire deaths occur. Operable smoke alarms significantly increase your chance of surviving a deadly home fire. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), working smoke alarms cut in half the risk of dying in reported home fires. A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm in your home can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Working smoke alarms save lives and should be installed and maintained in every home,” State Fire Marshal and Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak says. The state’s fire incident reports for 2011 indicated that smoke alarms were present in only 36 percent of fatal fire cases. Increasing the presence of smoke alarms in Tennessee households increases the possibility that more lives can be saved from fire danger.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office recommends following these smoke alarm guidelines to protect your life, your loved ones, and your home:

  • Smoke alarms with nonreplaceable (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away.
  • These alarms with nonreplaceable should not be confused with hard-wired smoke alarms that draw their power from the home’s electrical system and that might have power backups outfitted with replaceable batteries, even replaceable 10-year batteries. For smoke alarms with any other type of battery, replace batteries every six months when the time changes.
  • Dust or vacuum smoke alarms annually or whenever the battery is changed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. The instructions are included in the package or can be found on the internet.
  • Test alarms once a month using the test button. Replace the entire alarm if it's more than 10 years old or doesn't work properly when tested.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, and both inside and outside of sleeping areas.
  • For the best protection, equip your home with a combination of ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or dual-sensor alarms.
  • Interconnect all smoke alarms throughout your home so that when one sounds, they all sound. Interconnected alarms are available at most stores that sell smoke alarms.
  • Make sure everyone in your home understands the warning of the smoke alarm and knows how to respond.

Finally, prepare and practice an escape plan so that you and your loved ones can get out of your home safely should there be a fire. Plan to meet in a place a safe distance from the fire and where first responders can easily see you.

For more information on smoke alarms, fire escape planning, and fire prevention, view the 2012-2013 Monthly Fire Prevention and Public Fire Education Planning Guide on the State Fire Marshal’s website at

The State Fire Marshal’s Office ( is a division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance (, which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee., @TNCommerceInsur (Twitter), (Facebook), (YouTube)

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