Smoke alarms are a proven way to prevent injuries and death from fires. The risk of fire-related deaths is much higher in homes without smoke detectors than those with smoke detectors.

Installing smoke alarms

  • Install at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home (including the basement) and outside each sleeping area. If you sleep with the doors closed, put a smoke alarm inside each bedroom.
  • Mount smoke alarms on ceilings or high on walls because smoke rises. On a ceiling, place the alarm at least four inches away from the nearest wall. On a wall, place the alarm at least four inches but no more than 12 inches below the ceiling.
  • Never install a smoke alarm near a ceiling fan, window, door, bathroom, heating appliance or near a duct where drafts might interfere with the alarm’s detection of smoke.

Types of smoke alarms

There are two types of smoke alarms. Where you install them helps reduce people’s No. 1 complaint about smoke alarms: false alarms. 

Ionization smoke alarms 

  • Respond quickly to fast flaming fires, which generate a lot of heat but not necessarily a lot of smoke.
  • Good for your home’s general living and sleeping areas.

Photoelectric smoke alarms

  • Respond quickly to smouldering fires that produce a lot of smoke with less heat.
  • Excellent choice for the kitchen area because they are less prone to nuisance alarms caused by cooking (burnt toast) or humidity (shower steam).

No matter which alarms you choose, always make sure they feature a “hush” button. Pushing this button during a confirmed non-emergency allows you to temporarily silence it for seven to 10 minutes. You can clear the air while still protected in case of a real fire.

Choose models best for your family’s needs; however, always make sure that any smoke alarm you purchase meets Canadian safety standards and has a Canadian certification mark. This mark indicates that they have been tested by professionals and that they meet the safety standards set out in Canadian regulations. Certification marks should be on the smoke alarm and the product packaging. Learn more about certification marks and what to look for when purchasing a smoke alarm on the Government of Canada website.

Maintaining smoke alarms

  • Replace your smoke alarms every 10 years, as recommended by The National Fire Protection Association. Alarms wear out! Sensors weaken and become obstructed over time.
  • Remove dust and other airborne debris by lightly vacuuming alarms every six months. For electrically connected alarms, always shut off the power before vacuuming and test your unit when you are finished cleaning.
  • Test your alarms with the test button at least once per month to ensure they are in good working order.
  • Install fresh batteries at least once per year – safety experts suggest changing the alarm batteries every time you change your clocks.