Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms save lives! It is the single most valuable lifesaving device you can have in your home. An operable smoke alarm more than doubles your chances of surviving a fire.

The Alarm Program began in 1988 with the Charleston Fire Department supplying and installing smoke alarms for the elderly. handicapped, and low-income residents of the city. Now, smoke alarms are provided to any citizen who needs one. Department personnel also visit schools, community events, and often check door-to-door to ensure residents have an operable smoke alarm. As a result, the department installs and provides annual follow-up inspections on hundreds of smoke alarms each year.

To have a free smoke alarm installed in your house, please contact the Charleston Fire Department at 843-720-1981.

Why Get a Smoke Alarm

  • Roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. About one in five smoke alarm failures was due to dead batteries.
  • Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires by half.
  • In fires considered large enough to activate a smoke alarm, hardwired alarms operated 91% of the time, while battery-powered alarms operated only 75% of the time.

Installation & Maintenance Tips

Choosing the correct installation location and performing routine testing is critical to ensure your family's safety.

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, making sure that there is an alarm outside every separate sleeping area. New homes are required to have a smoke alarm in every sleeping room and all smoke alarms must be interconnected.
  • Hard-wired smoke alarms operate on your household electrical current. They can be interconnected so that every alarm sounds regardless of the fire's location. This is an advantage in early warning, because it gives occupants extra time to escape if they are in one part of the home and a fire breaks out in another part. Alarms that are hard-wired should have battery backups in case of a power outage, and should be installed by a qualified electrician.
  • If you sleep with bedroom doors closed, have a qualified electrician install interconnected smoke alarms in each room so that when one alarm sounds, they all sound.
  • If you, or someone in your home is deaf or hard of hearing, consider installing an alarm that combines flashing lights, vibration and/or sound.
  • Follow the manufacturer's installation directions. Typically, mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Ceiling mounted alarms should be installed at least four inches away from the nearest wall; wall-mounted alarms should be installed four to 12 inches away from the ceiling.
  • If you have ceilings that are pitched, install the alarm near the ceiling's highest point.
  • Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors, ceiling fans, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.
  • Never paint smoke alarms. Paint, stickers, or other decorations could keep the alarms from working.
  • Make sure everyone in your home can recognize and be awakened by the sound of the smoke alarm. Some children and the elderly may not readily awake to the sound of the smoke alarm. Consider installing interconnected smoke alarms so that when one alarm senses smoke and sounds, they are all triggered throughout your home. Installing an alarm in each bedroom increases each person's proximity to a sounding device. If someone in your home is hearing-impaired, consider smoke alarms that use visible notifications, such as flashing strobe lights.

Keep your smoke alarm working! It's up to you to make sure your smoke alarm will provide a lifesaving early warning in the event of a fire.

Related Documents

  1. Alarms Vs. Detectors
  2. Choosing Your Alarm
  3. Nuisance Alarms
  4. Safety Tips
  5. Types of Alarms

Smoke "alarms" usually refers to a type of device typically found in the home. It is a stand-alone device, typically powered by a 9 volt battery, which detects smoke and provides an alarm. Smoke "detectors" refers to a device that is part of a fire alarm system -  it detects smoke but requires other devices to generate an alarm.