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'It's Fire Prevention Week: Test Your Smoke Alarms'         Send a link to a friend

[OCT. 6, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Although smoke alarms have cut home fire death rates in half since the 1970s, many lives continue to be lost each year in fires in homes without working smoke alarms. That's why the Office of the State Fire Marshal is using Fire Prevention Week 2004, Oct. 3-9, to highlight the importance of installing and maintaining smoke alarms in homes. The theme is "It's Fire Prevention Week: Test Your Smoke Alarms."

"It's impossible to overemphasize the importance of having working smoke detectors in every home," said Illinois State Fire Marshal J.T. Somer. "In the 30 years since smoke detectors were introduced to consumers, they have helped reduce the home fire death rate by one-half. And even though they are now widely available and inexpensive, roughly 70 percent of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or in homes where the smoke alarm isn't working."

Somer noted that fires can spread through a home rapidly, and in some cases, individuals may have as little as two minutes to escape to safety once the alarm sounds. "Quite honestly, a working smoke alarm can make a life-or-death difference in many fires," he said. "But the alarm sounding is just one of the critical steps. You and your family need to know to leave the house immediately when the alarm sounds."

Key smoke alarm installation and maintenance tips include:

  • Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of the home and outside each separate sleeping area.
  • Mount smoke alarms on ceilings or high walls.
  • Test smoke alarms once a month, following the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Replace batteries once a year or as soon as the device "chirps," indicating that the battery is low.
  • Replace all smoke alarms after 10 years, even those that are hard-wired or smoke alarms with "long-life" (10-year) batteries. Smoke alarms with "long-life" batteries also need to be replaced when the alarm "chirps" or fails to respond to periodic testing. The batteries in these units cannot be replaced.
  • Alarms that are hard-wired to the home's electrical system should be installed by a qualified electrician.

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Fire departments across the state are joining with the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the National Fire Protection Association to bring the message of Fire Prevention Week to their communities. Many fire departments are conducting community Fire Prevention Week events that will include assisting residents in developing a home fire escape plan. Such plans include identifying escape routes in the home and choosing an outside meeting place where everyone can gather after they've escaped. Once a plan is developed, families should periodically practice the plan to ensure everyone in the home knows the fire escape plan, is familiar with the sound of the smoke alarm and knows how to exit quickly.

Contact your local fire department to find out about Fire Prevention Week activities in your community.

Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, in which more than 250 people died, 100,000 were left homeless and more than 17,400 structures were destroyed. Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

To learn more about Fire Prevention Week, visit

[News release from the Office of the State Fire Marshal]


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