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Installing and Maintaining Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are the single most important means of preventing house and apartment fire fatalities. They provide an early warning signal so you and your family can escape.

Only six percent of U.S. homes do not have smoke alarms - but these homes account for more than half of all home fire deaths.

Smoke alarms are required in the sleeping areas of most residential occupancies. The Fire Code requires smoke alarms in a variety of other uses, including hotels and motels, family day care homes and day care centers.

The local Fire Marshal strongly recommends smoke alarms in multiple locations in every home.

Installation Tips

The Baltimore County Fire Department offers these tips for installing and maintaining smoke alarms:

  • Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, including the basement; do not put smoke alarms in the kitchen, bathroom or the garage because cooking, steam and exhaust fumes may set them off.
  • Install smoke alarms both inside and outside sleeping areas, since many dangerous fires occur late at night or early in the morning. If you sleep with your bedroom door closed, absolutely install an alarm inside the room.
  • Install smoke alarms on the ceiling or above eye level on the walls. Smoke and deadly gases rise, so installing them at the proper height will provide the earliest possible warning.
  • These devices are easy to install; usually a screwdriver is the only tool you'll need.

Most hardware and home supply stores carry smoke alarms. Also, alarms are available at local career fire stations free of charge, courtesy of Local 1311, the local firefighter's union.

How to Keep Your Alarms Working Properly

Dust or vacuum your smoke alarms periodically. Test the alarms once a month using the test button.

The Fire Department suggests that you get in the habit of replacing the batteries twice a year - at the same time you reset your clocks each spring and fall.

For more detailed information about smoke alarms, visit the National Fire Protection Association.

Revised May 21, 2013

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