The Massachusetts Institute of Fire Department Instructors (MIFDI), as part of Fire Prevention Week, is reminding residents to check and change their smoke alarms, which are the first line of defense in the event of a home fire.


Fire Prevention Week runs from October 9 – 15. This year’s focus is to remind residents to replace smoke alarms every 10 years, through the “Don’t Wait:  Check the Date!  Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years” campaign.


According to data from the National Fire Protection Association and the United States Fire Administration, the public has many misconceptions about smoke alarms, which may put them at an increased risk in the event of a home fire.  Here are three key messages you should know regarding smoke alarms:


  • Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.
  • Make sure you know how old all the smoke alarms are in your home.
  • To find out how old a smoke alarm is, look at the date of manufacture on the back of the alarm. The alarm should be replaced 10 years from that date.


Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half. When a smoke alarm fails to operate, it is usually because the batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead.


“I’ve seen the life-saving impact working smoke alarms can have in a home fire, but I’ve also seen the tragedy that can result when smoke alarms aren’t working properly,” says MIFDI President Captain Mark Roche. “That’s why we’re making a concerted effort to educate Massachusetts residents about the overall importance of smoke alarms, and that they do have a life limit.” says Roche.


Between 2009 – 2013, three out of five home fire deaths in the United States were caused by fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.


There are two types of smoke alarms – ionization and photoelectric. Each type of technology is designed to alert you to fire or smoke conditions.  An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to fast, flaming fires and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to slower, smoldering fires.  For best protection, or where extra time is needed to awaken or assist others, both types of alarms, or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms are recommended.


On average, seven people die in U.S. homes fires per day. Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fire injuries, followed by heating equipment.  Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths.  Most fatal fires kill one or two people, however in 2014, 15 home fires killed five or more people resulting in a total of 88 deaths.


For more information on smoke alarms and this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Don’t Wait: Check the Date!  Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years”, visit www.firepreventionweek.org.

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