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Smoke alarms

Smoke alarms save lives!

Smoke alarms, when properly installed, tested and maintained, provide the best early warning system in the event of a house fire. Detection and warning of smoke and fire saves lives and reduces damage to homes and personal belongings.

Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.

People who die in home fires, often die from breathing in smoke and toxic gases emitted from fire. These poisonous gases can render a person confused, disoriented or even unconscious after only a few short breaths. Toxic effects may overcome residents before they have time to escape or even wake up from sleeping.

A smoke alarm combines smoke detection and alarm sounding in one unit.

What you should know

Test smoke alarms once a month by pressing the alarm's test button and replace the batteries of each smoke alarm once a year.

Replace smoke alarms after 10 years. Or, if you discover a smoke alarm is defective or broken after testing, replace it.

Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home, including the basement, and ensure there is a smoke alarm in or near every sleeping area.

There are several types of smoke alarms and detectors. Alarms using ionization technology are best suited for detecting fast-flaming fires. Alarms using photoelectric technology are best suited for detecting slow, smouldering fires.

For the best protection, installing both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or combination ionization/photoelectric alarms (also known as dual sensor alarms) is recommended.

When purchasing a smoke alarm, look for a product that has been manufactured and tested to an acceptable standard, indicated by a marking for the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC), or Underwriters

How to tell if your smoke alarm is expired

Smoke alarms expire after 10 years. To find out how old your smoke alarm is follow these steps.

  1. Remove the smoke alarm from the wall or ceiling.
  2. Look at the back of the alarm for the date of manufacture.
  3. If it was made less than 10 years ago, put the alarm back on the ceiling or wall.
  4. If it was made 10 or more years ago or you cannot find the manufacture date, replace the alarm with a new one.

Having trouble finding the date? Sparky can teach you how if you watch this video.


  • Smoke alarms may be powered by battery (9 volt), hard-wired to your home electrical system, or hard-wired to your home with a battery backup. Regardless of how a smoke alarm is powered, it should be replaced after 10 years.
  • Sleep with bedroom doors closed. Test smoke alarms to ensure you and your family will be able to hear and wake-up at the sound of the alarm and if not, install smoke alarms inside bedrooms to ensure residents will hear when sleeping.
  • Basic care instructions for a smoke alarm include:
    • Regular vacuuming with a soft bristle attachment can help keep a smoke alarm working properly. Follow manufacturer's instructions for cleaning.
    • Do not paint or decorate smoke alarms.
  • Installation information:
    • Install all alarms as per the manufacturer's recommendations, keeping in mind the required clearances.
    • Installing smoke alarms on the ceiling is recommended as smoke, heat and combustion products rise to the ceiling and spread horizontally.
    • Smoke alarms may be installed inside bedrooms, to ensure residents will hear them when sleeping with and can be interconnected with alarms installed in hallways and common areas.
  • When your smoke alarm is activated without the presence of smoke or fire, it is called a ‘nuisance alarm’. This may happen because the smoke alarm needs to be cleaned or is too close kitchen appliances which emit smoke or steam and set the smoke alarm off. Consider relocating the smoke alarm further away from kitchens and bathrooms or install a smoke alarm with a "hush" feature, which allows temporary silencing of the alarm.
  • Hard-wired smoke alarms, which operate on your household electrical current, can be interconnected so that every smoke alarm sounds when smoke is detected by just one alarm. This is an advantage, because residents are given more 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 back-ups in case of a power outage.


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