Iowa Knows: Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives

Iowa Knows: Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives

The number of fire deaths that occur each year nationwide is widely published. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fire Loss in the United States During 2011 report, civilian home fire deaths have decreased 58% from 6,015 in 1978 to 2,520 in 2011. That is why the installation and use of smoke alarms are promoted by fire and life safety experts around the world.

Iowa State Fire Marshal (SFM) Ray Reynolds knows this, as he has consistently demonstrated since assuming his position in April 2010. To mark its 100th anniversary in 2011, the SFM's Office began conducting a statewide campaign ("100 Years, 100%) to ensure that at least two working smoke alarms are installed in the homes of Iowa schoolchildren. And rather than collecting data solely on the number of fire deaths that occur in the state each year, the SFM started a program in 2010 to track the number of "lives saved" by the presence of working smoke alarms. In 2010, the lives of 146 Iowans were saved by working smoke alarms. In 2011, that number was 186. Last week, SFM Reynolds announced that 217 lives were saved in 2012.

The bottom line is this: smoke alarms save lives. And because they do, NEMA continuously stresses the importance of Americans installing and properly maintaining the smoke alarms in their homes. In order to be most effective, smoke alarms should be installed in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and the placement requirements of NFPA 72-2010, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (in all sleeping rooms and guest rooms, outside of each separate dwelling unit sleeping area, and on every level of a dwelling unit, including basements). They must also be properly maintained through the regular replacement of batteries and testing to ensure they operate as intended. Smoke alarms should be replaced in their entirety when they fail to respond to operability tests or after 10 years of the date of manufacture, whichever comes first.

NEMA recently recorded a three-part podcast series on smoke alarms, covering key differences between smoke alarms and detectors, proper placement of smoke alarms, and tips for their proper maintenance. Additional information about smoke alarms/detectors and other life saving devices can be found at

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