Smoke Alarms – Know The Facts

Smoke Alarms provide an early warning of a fire, giving people additional escape time. Forty years ago you had 17 minutes on average to escape a burning room. Now you only have 2 to 3 minutes. In today’s world many construction materials and household furnishings are made of synthetic materials. This along with open floor plans allow a fire to burn hotter and spread much faster.

Smoke Alarm Presence and Performance in Reported Home Fires 2012 – 2016

  • In 2016 the were 350,000 U.S. Home Structure Fires
  • There were Smoke Alarms present in 74% of these  fires.
  • Battery Only Alarms operated 81% of the time. Hardwire w/Battery backup operated 94% of the time.
  • Smoke Alarms have an expiration date of 10 years after manufactured date
  • NFPA reports that 1 in 5 Smoke Alarms currently in US homes is 10+ years old.
  • Rentals Properties are very likely to be missing at least one installed Smoke Alarm when a Tenant leaves the home.

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Smoke Alarm Historical Usage on Reported Home Fires Results 1977 – 2017

  • 1977 = 22% of all households had at least one Smoke Alarm
  • 2017 = 92% of all households had at least one Smoke Alarm
    • Even at 92% there are still over 5 million homes with No Smoke Alarm
  • 1977 = 724,000 reported home structure fires
  • 2017 = 357,000 reported home structure fires
    • This represents a 50% decrease

Smoke Alarms in the Bedrooms and On All Floors Increase Safety

  • When Smoke Alarms were not located on all floors they sounded off in only 4% of house fires and only alerted occupants 2% of the time.
  • When Smoke Alarms were located on all floors they sounded off in 37% of house fires and alerted occupants 15% of the time.
  • The 2018 Virginia Landlord Tenant Act, Uniform Statewide Building Code requires all Landlords to install Smoke Alarms in Rental Properties where they do not exist already.
  • The new law states that Landlords must have all Smoke Alarms inspected every 12 months. After each inspection the Landlord should provide the Tenant a certificate stating that the required Smoke Alarms are present in the home, have been inspected and are operational.
  • If a Tenant is Deaf or Hearing Impaired the law requires that the Landlord make reasonable accommodations regarding Smoke Alarms. First Alert/BRK offers High Intensity Strobe Light Smoke Alarms for the hearing impaired.
  • The National Fire Protection Association recommends one Smoke Alarm positioned properly on every floor (including basements), located outside every sleeping area plus inside the doorway of every bedroom.

Home Fire Deaths Occurred in Structures 3 Out of 5 Times with No Smoke Alarms At All (40%) or Non-Functioning Smoke Alarms (17%)

  • The death rate per 1000 reported home fires 2012-2016 was more than twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms, either because no smoke alarm was present or an alarm was present but did not operate, as it was in homes with working smoke alarms.
  • Death Rate per 1000 where there was no smoke alarm or alarm did not work = 12.3 (2012 – 2016)
  • Death Rate per 1000 where a smoke alarm was working properly = 5.7  (2012 – 2016)

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Reasons that Smoke Alarms Did Not Operate:

  • An average of 25,700 home fires per year where the alarm failed to operate (2012 – 2016)+
  • Almost half (46%) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries. Nuisance alarms or chirping are the leading reason for disconnected smoke alarms.
  • Dead batteries caused one-quarter (24%) of the smoke alarm failures.
  • Only 7% of the failures were due to hardwired power source problems, including disconnected smoke alarms, power outages, and power shut-offs.

In Reported Home Fires Large Enough to Activate the Alarm:

  • Hardwired smoke alarms operated 94% of the time.
  • Battery-powered smoke alarms operated (81%) of the time.

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Interconnected Smoke Alarms Throughout a House Increase Safety

  • As report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Households with any fires, including fires in which the fire department was not called, an Interconnected Smoke Alarm system was more likely to alert occupants of a fire anywhere in the structure.
  • When smoke alarms (interconnected or not) were on all floors, they sounded in 37% of fires and alerted occupants in 15%.
  • When smoke alarms were not on all floors, they sounded in only 4% of the fires and alerted occupants in only 2%.
  • In homes that had interconnected smoke alarms, the alarms sounded in half (53%) of the fires and alerted people in one-quarter (26%) of the fires.
  • Interconnected Smoke Alarms are used for new construction but with new technologies this type of fire protection can be installed as an  aftermarket product in your current home.
  • Should be considered a ‘must’ for larger multi-story vacation homes.

Get Protected – Let Stop Loss Install Your Property’s Smoke Alarms

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