When it comes to smoke alarms, NFPA survey shows American homes

October 8, 2010 – According to a recent survey among 1,004 adults commissioned by the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and conducted by Harris Interactive by telephone in September 2010, Americans continue to have misunderstandings about smoke alarms, including how many they need in their homes, and how often they should be tested and replaced.

Smoke alarms represent a key component of home fire safety. When working properly, they alert people to fire in time to escape safely, and can cut the chance of dying in a fire in half. This year's Fire Prevention Week campaign, "Smoke Alarms: A sound you can live with!", works to better educate people about the importance of smoke alarms, emphasizing newer requirements and recommendations for smoke alarm placement, installation, testing and maintenance.

Smoke Alarm Survey Findings
NFPA's survey shows that most American homes include a base level of smoke alarm protection. Almost all adults (96%) have smoke alarms in their homes, with more than two in five (42%) owning two to three; hallways are the most popular area for people to place them, while 42% reported having one in each bedroom. NFPA recommends at least one smoke alarm on every level of the home, including the basement, as well as outside each sleeping area and inside each bedroom. Larger homes may need additional smoke alarms.

"Over the past 30 plus years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of homes that have at least one smoke alarm, which represents a big step toward increased home fire safety," says Lorraine Carli, NFPA's vice president of communications. "But with those gains, this survey demonstrates that confusion about smoke alarm placement, maintenance and testing persist, which ultimately put the public at continued risk to home fires."

Interconnected smoke alarms provide the best level of protection – when one alarm sounds, they all do. However, survey findings show that less than one quarter (24%) have interconnected smoke alarms. And while smoke alarms should be tested monthly, a large portion of the population doesn't check them as often as they should.

More specifically, survey findings show:

  • 40% of smoke alarm owners test their smoke alarms at least every few months, while about a quarter (24%) only test them twice a year, and 11% rarely or never check them.
  • Most adults (71%) reported having a home fire escape plan, but more than half (53%) said they never practice it.

NFPA offers the following tips for making sure your home is protected by smoke alarms

  • Never remove or disable smoke alarms.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button, and make sure everyone in your home knows their sound.
  • If an alarm "chirps," warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
  • Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they're 10 years old (or sooner) if they do not respond properly when tested.
  • Smoke alarms are available for people who are deaf. These alarms use strobe lights to wake the person. Install vibration equipment – pillow or bed shakers. This equipment is activated by the sound of the smoke alarm.
  • People with mild to severe hearing loss can use equipment that emits a mixed, low-pitched sound. This device is activated by the sound of a traditional smoke alarm.

This survey was conducted by phone within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of NFPA from September 8-12, 2010 among 1,004 adults ages 18 and older. Results were weighted to reflect the U.S. adult population. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Lorraine Carli at

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. Visit NFPA's website at

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