City Services

Home Smoke Alarms

Most fatal home fires happen at night when people are sleeping. In reality, the smell of smoke may not wake a sleeping person. A fire produces poisonous gases and smoke which can numb the senses and put you into a deeper sleep. Inexpensive household smoke alarms can save your life by sounding an alarm alerting you to a fire and giving you time to escape safely. Home fire deaths have steadily decreased as the numbers of homes with working smoke alarms has increased. Having working smoke alarms in your home reduces your risk of dying in a fire by half.

Choosing a Smoke Alarm

When purchasing a smoke alarm, check to make sure that it has been tested to the CAN/ULC S531-M standard by an approved testing agency. There are two types of smoke alarms for home use. One type is called an ionization alarm because it monitors "ions", electrically charged particles. Smoke particles entering the sensing chamber change the electrical balance of the air. The alarms sounds when the change in electrical balance reaches a preset level. The other type is called a photoelectric alarm because its sensing chamber uses a beam of light and a light sensor. Smoke particles entering the chamber change the amount of light that reaches the light sensor. The alarm sounds when the smoke density reaches a preset level. Both types of smoke alarms are acceptable and perform effectively, provided they are installed and maintained correctly.

How Many Smoke Alarms do I Need?

It is recommended that every home has a smoke alarm outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. For maximum protection, consider installing a smoke alarm in every bedroom. Ensure everyone sleeping in your home can hear the sound of the smoke alarm, even when the bedroom doors are closed. If anyone is hearing impaired, install special smoke alarms that will alert them. The installation of smoke alarms is governed by provincial regulations and in certain areas by local by-laws. To ensure compliance, check with your local jurisdiction.

Where do I Install my Smoke Alarms?

Since smoke rises, install smoke alarms high on a wall or on the ceiling. Take the time to read the manufacturer's instructions carefully and follow them exactly. Do not install an alarm near a window, door, or air register where drafts could prevent smoke from reaching the alarm.

How do I Maintain my Smoke Alarm?

It is very important to test and clean all smoke alarms regularly. Test your smoke alarms by pressing the test button once a month. Vacuum your smoke alarms twice a year to remove any dust or dirt from the sensing register. For battery operated alarms, change the battery at least once a year. Remember never to "borrow" a smoke alarm's battery for another device's use. Smoke alarms do not last forever. Alarms that are older than 10 years old are near the end of their service life and should be replaced.

What do I do if my Smoke Alarm Sounds?

Smoke alarms give your family a warning, but it is your responsibility to get yourself and your family out of your home safely. Your family will do the right thing if you've planned ahead for a fire emergency. Ensure that everyone knows what the smoke alarm sounds like Plan your escape routes. Know at least two ways out of every room and choose a meeting place outside your home where your family can gather. Practice your home escape plan at least twice a year. When a smoke alarm sounds, leave right away. Go directly to your family meeting place and call 911 or your local emergency number from a neighbour's phone. Remember, once you're out, stay out. Never go back inside a burning building.