KFD urges residents to check their smoke alarms every time change


KINGSPORT – With the end of Daylight Saving Time coming this weekend, its time to check your smoke alarms and replace the batteries.

Every year people who die in home fires could have been warned it they had properly maintained their smoke alarms.‚ According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 2009-2013, fires in homes with no smoke alarms caused an average of 940 deaths per year (38% of home fire deaths). An additional 510 people per year (21% of home fire deaths) were fatally injured in fires in which smoke alarms were present but failed to operate.‚  Power source problems were the leading cause of smoke alarm failures. The death rate per 100 reported fires was more than twice as high in homes with no or no working smoke alarms (1.18 deaths per 100 fires) as it was in fires with working smoke alarms (0.53 deaths per 100 fires). The lowest fire death rates were seen in homes with hardwired smoke alarms‚ and sprinklers. Victims in homes with working smoke alarms were more likely to have been in the area of origin. They were also more likely to be 65 or older, to have a physical disability or to have tried to fight the fire themselves. Working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a fire in half.

Smoke Alarms should be tested monthly. If your smoke alarms are not working, replace the batteries or the entire unit. Kingsport Fire Departments Public Education Officer Barry Brickey stated, Other than a Home Sprinkler System, working Smoke Alarms are your best line of defense for surviving a home fire.‚  Smoke Alarms need to be placed on each level of your home, in your bedrooms, hallways, stairwell and living areas. If your smoke alarms are over 10 years old they may have lost their ability to properly detect smoke and they need to be replaced.

So what can you do to keep your family safe?

  1. Put new batteries in your alarms when you change your clocks.
  2. Replace old alarms (more than 10 years old) with new Dual Sensor Smoke Alarms
  3. In new alarm install lithium batteries to get about 10 years on a single battery (which is the life of the alarm.)
  4. Check your smoke alarms every month.
  5. Practice a home escape plan.

So what is in a Dual Sensor Smoke Alarm?

There are two types of sensors:

  • Ionization smoke detection is generally more responsive to flaming fires.
    How they work: Ionization-type smoke alarms have a small amount of radioactive material between two electrically charged plates, which ionizes the air and causes current to flow between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts the flow of ions, thus reducing the flow of current and activating the alarm.
  • Photoelectric‚ smoke detection is generally more responsive to fires that begin with a long period of smoldering (called smoldering fires).
    How they work: Photoelectric-type alarms aim a light source into a sensing chamber at an angle away from the sensor. Smoke enters the chamber, reflecting light onto the light sensor; triggering the alarm.

Some new alarms are powered by sealed long lasting lithium batteries, others can use a 9v lithium, both types have a life of 10 years. For the best protection, buy interconnected smoke alarms for the home. When one sounds, they all sound.

Make sure the model you choose has been listed by UL (Underwriters Laboratory).

How much does a smoke alarm cost?

A smoke alarm may be purchased at most retail stores for about $7.00 – $100.00. New dual sensor alarm with built in 10 year batteries are around $25 at local home stores.

How many should I have in my house?

The Kingsport Fire Departments suggestions for Smoke Alarms:

  • Smoke alarms should be placed on each level of your home.
  • Smoke alarms should be placed inside and outside of sleeping areas.
  • Smoke alarms should be placed in your stairwells.
  • Smoke alarms should be placed in the main living room & den.
  • Many smoke alarms placed in kitchens become a nuisance and are usually disabled to prevent false alarms, thus offering no protection.
  • Smoke alarms should be placed on the ceiling or high on a wall near the bedrooms. This enables the detector to sense the smoke as it approaches the sleeping area.
  • Install your smoke alarm away from air outlet vents to prevent dust accumulation

There should be a least one smoke alarm in every household. Additional alarms will significantly increase your chances of survival.

Installation is Simple.

If you can handle a screwdriver, you can install most smoke alarms.

How do I install my smoke alarms?

  • Battery-operated and “plug-in” electric alarms can be attached directly to the ceiling or wall.
  • Hard wired” electric alarms are somewhat more difficult to install and may require an electrician.

Know How to Escape

Your smoke detector will awaken you, but you may not be thinking clearly. You should practice escaping before an emergency strikes. Learn more about fire escape plans here: http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/escape-planning/basic-fire-escape-planning


Once a fire has started, it spreads rapidly. You may have only seconds to get out. Usual exits from bedrooms may be blocked by smoke or fire. It is important everyone knows exactly what to do. New homes and furnishings will burn faster and hotter than older homes and furnishings.

Identify Escape Routes

Plan two exits from every room. Second story windows may need a rope or chain ladder to enable occupants to escape safely. Choose a meeting place outside the home so you’ll know everyone has escaped.

Practice Escaping

Practice allows you to test your plan before a real emergency. You may not be able to reach your children! It is important that they know exactly what to do.

Rental Property

Tennessee State law requires all landlords (apartments & home rentals) to provide a working smoke alarm in their rental property to be maintained by the occupant. -Tennessee Code Annotated 68-102-151

Life-saving quick tips for everyone:

  • Test your smoke alarms once a month, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm once a year, or as soon as the alarm “chirps” warning that the battery is low. Hint: schedule battery replacements for the same day you change your clocks from daylight savings time to standard time in the fall.
  • Never “borrow” a battery from a smoke alarm. Smoke alarms can’t warn you of fire if their batteries are missing or have been disconnected.
  • Don’t disable smoke alarms even temporarily. If your smoke alarm is sounding “nuisance alarms,” try relocating it farther from kitchens or bathrooms, where cooking fumes and steam can cause the alarm to sound.
  • Regularly vacuuming or dusting your smoke alarms, following the manufacturer’s instructions, can keep them working properly.
  • Smoke alarms don’t last forever. Replace yours once every 10 years. If you can’t remember how old the alarm is, then it’s probably time for a new one.
  • Consider installing smoke alarms with “long-life” (10-year) batteries.
  • Plan regular fire drills to ensure that everyone knows exactly what to do when the smoke alarm sounds. Hold a drill at night to make sure that sleeping family members awaken at the sound of the alarm. Some studies have shown that some children may not awaken to the sound of the smoke alarm. Know what your child will do before a fire occurs.
  • If you are building a new home or remodeling your existing home, consider installing an automatic home fire sprinkler system. Sprinklers and smoke alarms together cut your risk of dying in a home fire 82 percent relative to having neither ‚¬ a savings of thousands of lives a year.

Call the Kingsport Fire Department Fire Marshals Office for advice or assistance with the installation of smoke alarms at 423-229-4440