October 11, 2002
CPSC Warns: Millions of Americans
Have Smoke Alarms that Don't Work
- This is Fire Prevention Week (October 6-12), but the U.S. Consumer Product
Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that about 16 million homes in the U.S.
have smoke alarms that do not work. The reason? The batteries are dead or
Since most of the U.S. will gain an hour when Daylight Savings Time ends on
Sunday, October 27, the CPSC recommends that consumers make good use of the
extra hour by changing their smoke alarm batteries and testing the alarms to
ensure they work properly.
"Parents and children should make safety a family tradition by changing the
batteries in their smoke alarms annually. They should also be tested monthly
to make sure they're operating," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "Make fire
safety a family activity."
Fire is the second leading cause of unintentional death in the home. Each
year, nearly 2,700 people die in residential fires, and there are more than
330,000 residential fires reported to fire departments.
About 90 percent of U.S. households have smoke alarms installed. However, a
CPSC survey estimated that 20 percent of those households, about 16 million,
did not have any working alarms. CPSC recommends consumers test each smoke
alarm every month to make sure it is working properly. Long-life smoke
alarms with 10-year batteries have been available to consumers since 1995.
These long-life alarms also should be tested monthly.
CPSC recommends consumers place a smoke alarm that meets the requirements of
a professional testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories' (UL),
on each level of multi-story homes outside sleeping areas, and inside
bedrooms. CPSC has worked to strengthen smoke alarm performance and
Each year, CPSC works with other federal agencies and fire safety
organizations to help reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by
fire. Specifically, CPSC has developed candle safety information for
retailers in Massachusetts; distributed smoke alarms to seniors and pre-
schools in Pennsylvania; conducted outreach to colleges and universities in
California and Washington about dormitory and apartment fire safety; and
distributed fire safety information nationwide.
CPSC recommends consumers follow these tips to help prevent fires:
Install and maintain smoke alarms;
Maintain gas and electrical appliances;
Keep matches and lighters away from children; and
Develop and practice a fire escape plan.