Home & Safety Preparedness

Are Your Fire Alarms Working Properly?

< Back to contents   |   Print article

According to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) more than 94 percent of North American homes have at least one smoke alarm. This would be a favorable statistic if there were not more homes with non-functioning alarms than homes without any alarms. People are operating under a false sense of security because they fail to maintain the very item that could save their lives. To increase your chances of surviving a fire, it is essential to properly install and frequently test your smoke alarms.

When purchasing a smoke alarm it is important to know if there are local building code requirements that dictate the type of power required to operate your alarm. There are standard battery-operated alarms, 10-year battery-operated alarms and others that run on electricity. There are also smoke alarms for the hearing impaired that have flashing lights in addition to an audible alarm. It is important to make sure that the alarm you choose is listed or approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories.

Safety in Numbers

When deciding how many alarms to purchase, it is best to follow NFPA Life Safety Code 101. Most codes require a minimum of one smoke alarm on each floor of your house, including basements, and within 15 feet of each sleeping area. If a door to a sleeping area is normally kept closed, it is also recommended that a smoke detector be placed inside that room.

Building codes for new construction typically require that hardwired smoke alarms should be interconnected. Therefore if one smoke alarm is activated, all alarms will sound. New construction codes also dictate that smoke alarms be installed in each bedroom.

The installation of a standard battery-powered smoke alarm is quite simple and only requires a screwdriver and a drill. A qualified electrician should be used to install hardwired fire alarms. Make sure your hardwired fire alarms are equipped with battery back-up.

Here are some other installation recommendations:

  • Install wall-mounted alarms just below the ceiling approximately 6 to 12 inches.
  • Install ceiling-mounted alarms at least 6 inches from any wall.
  • Mount alarms in rooms with vaulted ceilings near the ceiling's highest point.
  • Position alarms in stairways with no doors at the top or bottom, in the path smoke would follow up the stairwell.
  • Mount alarms at the bottom of closed stairways, such as those leading to a basement. Dead air trapped near the door at the top of a stairway could prevent smoke from reaching an alarm located at the top.
  • Never install an alarm too close to windows, doors, forced-air registers, or ceiling fans where drafts could interfere with the detector's operation.

If you are unsure of the best place to install a smoke alarm, contact your local fire department. For a nominal fee or no cost, your local fire department will inspect your home and demonstrate the best place to install your alarms.

To confirm your homeowners policy completely covers your needs, call Electric Insurance today at 800.342.5342. Whether you are a prospective policyholder or a current policyholder just interested in confirming your coverage, our licensed representatives will make sure you have the right coverage at the right price. Electric Insurance also offers auto and personal umbrella insurance.

Related articles:


Save up to 20%

Yes, I am a GE Employee
Retrieve a Saved Quote

MyAccount: Login/Register


Related Topics



Speak to an Associate

Have a question?
We want to hear it.





Want to share Electric Insurance with a friend or family member? Send us their email address and a quick message and we'll take care of the rest.


  • The American Business Awards Winner
  •  Electric Insurance Company BBB Business Review
  • AM Best
  • Communitas Award 2010 Excellence Winner