Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms save lives. Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out.

 What's the Risk?
  • Homes today burn up to 8 times faster than they did 50 years ago.
  • You may have less than 60 seconds to escape a fire in your home.
  • Most residential fires happen between the hours of 11:00 pm - 7:00 am
  • There was no smoke alarm warning in 1 out of 3 fatal home fires in Ontario
 What Can Smoke Alarms Do?

The use of smoke alarms is considered to be one of the main reasons for the decline in home fire deaths. 

  • Only working smoke alarms give you the early warning you need to safely escape.
  • Smoke alarms can increase your chances of surviving a fire by up to 50%
 How Do I Protect My Family?
 Having working smoke alarms in your home is one of the easiest ways to keep your family safe. 
Smoke Alarm Installation and Requirements
  • Working smoke alarms are required by Ontario Fire Code on every storey of your home, and outside all sleeping areas. Depending on the date your home was built, you may also require smoke alarms in every bedroom.
  • For added protection, install smoke alarms in bedrooms, especially if you or family members sleep with bedroom doors closed.
  • Install new alarms according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Install in the proper locations. Avoid installing smoke alarms in or adjacent to kitchens and bathrooms, or near air vents, windows and ceiling fans.
  • It is the homeowner’s responsibility to install and maintain smoke alarms.
  • It is the responsibility of landlords to ensure their rental properties comply with the law.
  • If you are a tenant, it is your responsibility to ensure that the alarms provided are in working condition. If there are alarms missing, or not working properly, it is your responsibility to notify your landlord immediately.
  • The Code also requires that your smoke alarms meet the Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada (ULC) standards. Smoke alarms that the ULC test and approve are marked with a label.

    Smoke alarm ULC approval label

Smoke Alarm Maintenance
 A smoke alarm can only save your family if it is working. Simple maintenance on your alarm will make sure it is.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly by pressing the ‘test’ button on the alarm.
  • Change the batteries at least twice a year, or immediately when you hear the ‘low battery’ chirp.
  • Clean your smoke alarms monthly with a gentle, soft bristle vacuum attachment. Test after cleaning.
  • Listen for an occasional chirping sound, this could mean the alarm batteries are low or there is too much dust on the alarm
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintaining smoke alarms.
  • It is against the law for anyone to disable a smoke alarm.
Smoke Alarm Replacement

Smoke alarms do not last forever. Check the date on your alarm, and replace according to manufacturer’s instructions. You may also need to replace a smoke alarm that isn't working properly. Some reasons for replacing a smoke alarm include:

  • The smoke alarm has gone over the manufacturer's recommended life cycle
  • The alarm doesn't sound when you test it, even after you confirm the batteries are full or the AC power supply is properly connected
  • The exterior case is damaged or painted
  • The smoke alarm is covered with smoke stains, heavy grease or dirt
  • The smoke alarm has frequent false alarms that are not caused by cooking or steam
  • Batteries appear to be leaking or corroding
 When the Smoke Alarm Activates
  • If the smoke alarm sounds, get outside and stay outside.
  • Respond quickly – get up and go, remember to know two ways out of every room, get yourself outside quickly, and go to your outside meeting place with your family.
  • Manage nuisance alarms. If a smoke alarm frequently activates due to cooking activities or using the shower, do not remove the battery! Try moving the smoke alarm, purchasing a smoke alarm with a hush feature, or replacing ionization alarms located near kitchens with photoelectric alarms.
 Children and Smoke Alarms

Some research indicates that sleeping children don't always awake when a smoke alarm activates. Other research indicates that children are more likely to awaken better to a voice than they do to a typical smoke alarm beep. While this research is somewhat worrisome, it is undeniable that smoke alarms are highly effective at reducing fire deaths and injuries. To be sure your children will be awakened in the event of a fire:

  • Practice the escape plan during which the smoke alarm is activated so all family members know its sound.
  • Every family should know who will - and who won't - awaken at the sound of the smoke alarm.
  • If someone doesn't wake up when the alarm sounds during a drill, you should design an escape plan that assigns a grown-up who is easily awakened by the alarm to wake the sleepers, perhaps by yelling "FIRE," pounding on the wall or door, or blowing a whistle.
Smoke Alarms for People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Working smoke alarms save lives. However, people who are deaf or hard of hearing may not be able to depend on the traditional smoke alarm to alert them to a fire.

Safety Tips:

  • Smoke alarms and alert devices are available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Visual smoke alarms incorporate a visual component, such as a strobe light, in addition to an audible alarm when smoke is detected in the home.
  • When people who are deaf are asleep, a pillow or bed shaker can wake them so they can escape. The shaker is activated by the sound of a smoke alarm.
  • When people who are hard of hearing are asleep, an alert device that uses a loud, mixed, low-pitched sound can wake them. They may find a pillow or bed shaker helpful. These devices are triggered by the sound of the smoke alarm.
  • Research the products and select the ones that best meet your needs.
  • The Canadian Hearing Society offers fire and emergency services programs, as well as information and assistance on visual smoke alarms for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
  • DON’T FORGET…Test all smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button.
Frequently Asked Questions
 What types of smoke alarms can I buy?

There are many brands of smoke alarms on the market, but they fall under two basic types - ionization and photoelectric.

Ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms detect different types of fires. Since no one can predict what type of fire might start in their home, the USFA recommends that every home and place where people sleep have:

  • Both ionization AND photoelectric smoke alarms. OR
  • Dual sensor smoke alarms, which contain both ionization and photoelectric smoke sensors.

Choose interconnected smoke alarms, so when one sounds, they all sound.

Be sure that you are purchasing approved alarms. Health Canada recently issued an alert to consumers to check for a recognized Canadian certification mark on the product when purchasing smoke or carbon monoxide (CO) alarms after multiple unapproved devices were found on the market. Products that do not have a recognized Canadian certification mark may not meet Canadian performance standards and could fail or operate incorrectly.

 What powers a smoke alarm?
Smoke alarms are powered by battery or by your home's electrical system. If the smoke alarm is powered by battery, it runs on either a disposable nine-volt battery or a non-replaceable 10-year lithium (“long-life”) battery. Alarms that get power from your home's electrical system, or “hardwired,” usually have a back-up battery that will need to be replaced once a year.
 Are smoke alarms expensive?
Smoke alarms are not expensive and are worth the lives they can help save. For the price of a pizza you could protect your family for 10 years!
 What do I do if smoke alarms sound when I am cooking?
Never take the battery out of your smoke alarm while cooking! If a smoke alarm sounds while you're cooking or taking a shower with lots of steam, do not remove the battery. You should:
  • Open a window or door and press the “hush” button.
  • Wave a towel at the alarm to clear the air.
  • If possible, relocate the entire alarm several feet away from the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Disabling a smoke alarm or removing the battery can be a deadly mistake.