Smoke Alarm in hands

Code-Compliant Smoke Alarms Save Lives

Smoke alarms give residents "spring in step" during home fire

Whether you're spending Spring Break taking care of household chores or putting Daylight Saving Time to use with a home improvement project, the goal is the same: a fresh start. What residents often overlook when spring cleaning, planning a remodel, or moving into an older home is checking for a sufficient number of properly installed and located smoke alarms.

The Hillsborough County Property Maintenance Code requires that operational smoke alarms are properly installed outside the sleeping areas of all dwellings or dwelling units in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association's National Fire Alarm Code.

Since homes built to earlier standards often don't meet this minimum requirement, Hillsborough County Code Enforcement encourages homeowners and renters to take proactive steps in ensuring their home has a sufficient complement of functioning smoke alarms.

The National Fire Prevention Association offers these tips for installing and testing smoke alarms:

  • Choose smoke alarms that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.
  • On levels without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room or near the stairway to the upper level, or in both locations.
  • Smoke alarms installed in the basement should be installed on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs leading to the next level.
  • Smoke alarms should be installed at least 10 feet from a cooking appliance to minimize false alarms when cooking.
  • Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings. Wall-mounted alarms should be installed not more than 12 inches away from the ceiling.
  • If you have ceilings that are pitched, install the alarm within 3 feet of the peak but not within the apex of the peak.
  • Don't install smoke alarms near windows, doors, or ducts where drafts might interfere with their operation.
  • Never paint smoke alarms. Paint, stickers, or other decorations could keep the alarms from working.
  • For the best protection, interconnect all smoke alarms. When one smoke alarm sounds they all sound. Interconnection can be done using hard-wiring or wireless technology.
  • When interconnected smoke alarms are installed, it is important that all of the alarms are from the same manufacturer. If the alarms are not compatible, they may not sound.
  • There are two types of smoke alarms - ionization and photoelectric. An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires, and a photoelectric smoke alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires. For the best protection, both types of alarms or combination ionization-photoelectric alarms, also known as dual sensor smoke alarms, are recommended.
  • Keep manufacturer's instructions for reference.

Those who live in unincorporated Hillsborough County and do not have working smoke alarms can apply for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue's Project SAFE, a grant-funded program that provides free smoke alarm installations at no cost. The county also offers special alarms for the deaf and hard of hearing and children with special needs to those who qualify. To see if you qualify, apply online or call (813) 272-6600.


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