Smoke alarms save lives.

A fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the United States every 16 seconds. A residential fire occurs every 74 seconds. The majority of fires that kill people happen at night. If you’re asleep, the smell of smoke won’t always wake you up. In fact, smoke and poisonous gases can put you into a deeper sleep. Inexpensive smoke alarms can wake you in time to escape, greatly increasing your chances of survival.

How to choose an alarm.

Be sure that the smoke alarm carries the label of an independent testing lab (i.e. UL). Some home alarms run on batteries, others on household current. There are also different sensor technologies, some faster to react when fires are smoldering, others faster when fires are openly flaming, ALL are fast enough to provide

sufficient warning. All laboratory tested smoke alarms, regardless of type, will protect you if they’re installed and maintained properly.

How many do you need?

Install at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home, including the basement and outside each sleeping area. Smoke alarms should also be installed in sleeping rooms, especially if you sleep with the doors closed. New home construction now require hard wired smoke detectors in each sleeping room in addition to each level of the home. If someone in the home is hearing impaired, install alarms that flash a strobe light as well as the audible alarm.

Where and how to install.

Smoke rises, so mount alarms high on a wall or on the ceiling.

  • To wall mount, position the alarm 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling.
  • To ceiling mount, position the detector from the center of the space to, but not closer than, 5 to 12 inches from the nearest wall.
  • In stairways without doors at the top or bottom, place the detector anywhere along the path smoke would take, observing the previously stated two rules.
  • In stairways, such as those from a basement that have a closed door at the top of the stairs, mount the smoke alarm at the bottom of the stairway. Dead air trapped near the door at the top of the stairway could prevent the smoke from reaching the alarm.
  • DO NOT install smoke alarms near a window, door or forced-air register where drafts could interfere with its operation.

False Alarms

  • Cooking vapors, steam and other fumes sometimes "set- off" the smoke alarm. If this happens regularly, do not solve the problem by removing the battery. Instead, try relocating the smoke alarm further from the source of the smoke.
  • Clean the smoke detector regularly using a vacuum cleaner without removing the cover following the manufacturer recommendations.


  • Change the battery in battery operated detectors at least annually. Many smoke alarm models chirp periodically when battery replacement is required.
  • Test the smoke alarm monthly.
  • Replace the smoke alarm as recommended by the manufacturer or every 10 years. After 10 years of service, the sensor in the smoke alarm becomes unreliable.
Attached Document or FileSmoke Alarm Guide Where are smoke alarms required?
Official website of the City of Saint Albans, Vermont | (802) 524-1500 |