Smoke alarms: Still your best tool for surviving a fire


The sound of a smoke alarm can mean the difference between life and death in a fire.

Research shows that working smoke alarms cut the chances of dying in a fire nearly in half. But they must be working properly to do so.

Data from the Office of the Fire Commissioner show many homes have smoke alarms that do not activate when smoke is present, usually because of missing, disconnected or dead batteries. Lack of a power source is the main reason why smoke alarms don’t work properly.

Many homes in Alberta may not have any smoke alarms, not enough smoke alarms, alarms that are too old, or alarms that are not working. A working smoke alarm will beep when smoke is present or when the test button is pressed, has a power source (battery or household electric circuit), is not plugged by dust, cob-webs or paint. The fire service recommends installing working smoke alarms in every home, on every level (including the basement), outside each sleeping area and in each bedroom.

Age matters

If a smoke alarm is 10 years old or older, it needs to be replaced.

Types of alarms

Experts agree that interconnected smoke alarms offer the best protection; when one sounds, they help make a family’s response quicker. There are also wireless interconnected smoke alarms on the market and these are easy for homeowners to install. Newer model battery-operated smoke alarms with 10-year lithium batteries do not require annual battery replacement. However, they must be tested once a month to ensure they are in working condition. Specially designed smoke alarms for the hearing and visually impaired are also available.

Is your smoke alarm in good working order?

  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button, and make sure everyone in your home knows how they sound.
  • If an alarm “chirps,” warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.
  • Replace all smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and hard-wired alarms, when they’re 10 years old or sooner if they do not respond properly when tested.
  • Never remove the batteries or disable a smoke alarm.

For more information on fire safety in Alberta, contact your municipality’s fire or emergency service or the Office of the Fire Commissioner at 1-800-421-6929, email or visit and click on the Public Education tab.