Is Your Smoke Alarm Expired? This and Other Important Maintenance Tips

Most of us pay attention to expiration dates on food and medical prescriptions. But, have you ever considered the expiration date of a smoke alarm? Yes, these potentially life-saving devices have lives of their own and expire after about 10 years or 87,000 hours of service.

However, that’s something that’s not widely known. A recent national survey conducted by First Alert revealed that 72 percent of Americans are not aware that smoke alarms need to be replaced every 10 years. If you neglect replacing your alarms, you could be putting yourself and your family at risk.

I’m encouraging everyone to make sure their home is equipped with working smoke alarms – the key word being “working.”

The fact is, even if you have smoke alarms installed at home, you and your family may not be sufficiently protected if you haven’t maintained them. According to the Houston Fire Department, an estimated 30 percent of all residential fires responded to are in homes without a smoke alarm (or they have a non-working smoke alarm). Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Smoke Alarm Maintenance

To ensure that alarms are functioning properly, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends testing devices monthly. If you cannot recall when your alarms were installed, it’s best to be safe and replace the units. Additionally, many experts suggest replacing alarm batteries twice a year.

Smoke Alarm Placement 

It’s also important to make sure your home is equipped with the proper number of alarms. According to the NFPA, 66 percent of U.S. households are not in compliance with the recommended number of smoke alarms. To ensure the highest level of protection from smoke and fire, install smoke alarms in every bedroom or sleeping area and on every level of the home, including basements. So, an average two-story, three-bedroom house would need a minimum of four smoke alarms.

Smoke Alarm Types

If your home is in need of new smoke alarms, there is a wide selection of options and features from which to choose, ranging from combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to smoke alarms with escape lights. Alarms that feature voice alerts may be helpful in homes with children. Studies show that children, particularly those between the ages of six and 10, awaken more readily to a human voice, so this technology provides an increased level of safety.

Among the latest innovations at First Alert are our new Maximum Protection Alarms, which feature a patented smoke entry system that allows smoke to have a more direct path to the photoelectric sensor. This advanced technology helps to prevent false alarms ( and the dangerous but all-too-frequent practice of silencing these “nuisance alarms” by removing the batteries.

Fire Safety Tips

To further protect your home from the threats of smoke and fire, the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office offers the following fire safety tips:

  • Prior to cold weather months, inspect and service all heating appliances. Only use space heaters with a switch or sensor that automatically shuts them off if they tip over or over-heat, and do not store or place any items that may catch fire within 36 inches of the heater.
  • Celebrate the holiday season safely. Check labels to ensure artificial trees and decorations are noncombustible. If you’re using a real tree, keep it away from flammable sources, such as heat vents or fire places. Thoroughly examine lights for frayed or exposed wires before hanging on a tree, and use a surge protector to help prevent overloading electrical outlets.
  • Outdoor burning is illegal in the Houston area. Consider alternative ways to dispose of waste including recycling, composting, mulching, logging and landfills.

As the holiday season ramps up, and we all start to spend more time indoors, remember to check on the operating condition of your smoke alarms and to maintain and replace them, as needed. These are life-saving devices and practices that can make a real difference.

Guest blogger Debbie Hanson is director of external affairs for First Alert, a trusted brand in home safety products.

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If you’re looking for ways to protect your home, contact an Allstate Agent today to discuss your options.

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