How Often to Test a House Fire Alarm

By Kevin Freeman

  • Overview

    Regularly testing a house fire alarm might sound inconvenient, but it can save lives in the event of a house fire. Understanding how often smoke alarms need to be checked and in what ways they should be checked can make the difference between getting everyone out safely and not getting out at all.
  • Significance

    Thousands of people in the United States alone die every year in residential fires that could have been detected if they had regularly checked their fire alarm system. There are a great deal more people who are burned or otherwise injured every year, and the number is continually growing. These are 2 great reasons to take a few minutes of checking that will ensure that families and residents have a safeguard to wake them in the event of a fire.
  • Frequency

    According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), all fire alarms should be tested at least once per month to ensure that they are operating properly. While the batteries in battery-powered units will likely need to be changed annually on average, a monthly test can determine if the house fire alarm has a malfunction, if the batteries have prematurely drained their charges, or if any other problems have arisen that might disable the system.


  • Installation

    One of the more overlooked aspects of testing a house fire alarm involves an inspection of the way in which the fire alarm system has been installed. If smoke detectors are installed on an angled ceiling, they should be mounted to the highest points possible to ensure that gathering smoke will accumulate around that area first. If the highest point is inaccessible by normal means, a specialized pole can be purchased that is designed specifically to reach those overly high areas that would otherwise be unreachable.
  • Effects

    According to the CPSC, simply installing and maintaining an effective house fire alarm system reduces the chances of house fire deaths by one-half. While that reduction is significant on its own, the chances of being injured or killed by a house fire drop even more dramatically. The fact is that when house fires occur, they typically do not kill occupants of the home by burning, but rather by smoke or toxic gas inhalation. This makes it essential for home occupants to ensure that they have the longest amount of time possible to evacuate in the event of a fire.
  • Expert Insight

    Because of the heavy sleep that children often experience, the majority of them will continue to sleep as a house fire alarm sounds. House fire alarm systems have compensated for this factor by offering parents a custom alarm that uses a parent's voice to wake and warn children of their danger. When tested, the voice alarm system had a 96 percent success rate compared to 58 percent with the standard alarm system. Purchasing a custom house fire alarm system that uses a parent's voice is highly recommended for the lives that it can save.
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