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Smoke Alarms

NFPA's Smoke Alarm Central is your complete source for smoke alarm information

Smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained play a vital role in reducing fire deaths and injuries.

Smoke alarms save lives. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out. Having a working smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a reported fire in half. Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Here's what you need to know!

  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home.
  • Test your smoke alarms every month.
  • When a smoke alarm sounds, get outside and stay outside.
  • Replace all smoke alarms in your home every 10 years
    More about staying safe with smoke alarms.


Escape planning

Escape grid

Your ability to get out depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning.

In 2013, there were an estimated 369,500 reported home structure fires and 2,755 associated civilian deaths in the United States.

Fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you as little as one or two minutes to escape safely once the alarm sounds. Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes.  Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm. For easy planning, download NFPA's escape planning grid (PDF, 1.1 MB). This is a great way to get children involved in fire safety in a non-threatening way.

Defensible Space

Alert: Extreme Winter Drought Conditions have Increased Wildfire Danger Statewide. 

Protect your property by creating and maintaining defensible space now. 

Creating defensible space is essential to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. It’s the buffer you create between a building on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland area that surround it. This space is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and it protects your home from catching fire – either from direct flame contact or radiant heat. Defensible space is also important for the protection of the firefighters defending your home.


Defensible Space Zones
Two zones make up the required 100 feet of defensible space.

Definsible Space Zone Diagram showing 2 zones of defensible space around a home.

Zone 1
Zone 1 extends 30 feet* out from buildings, structures, decks, etc.
  • Remove all dead plants, grass and weeds (vegetation).
  • Remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof and rain gutters.
  • Trim trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees.
  • Remove branches that hang over your roof and keep dead branches 10 feet away from your chimney.
  • Relocate wood piles into Zone 2.
  • Remove or prune flammable plants and shrubs near windows.
  • Remove vegetation and items that could catch fire from around and under decks.
  • Create a separation between trees, shrubs and items that could catch fire, such as patio furniture, wood piles, swing sets, etc.
Zone 2
  • Cut or mow annual grass down to a maximum height of 4 inches.
  • Create horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees. (See diagram)
  • Create vertical spacing between grass, shrubs and trees. (See diagram)
  • Remove fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones, and small branches. However, they may be permitted to a depth of 3 inches.

Emergency Preparedness

Safety Tip

  • Discuss what to do in an evacuation. When told by officials, go immediately to a shelter as instructed or to the home of a friend or relative who lives out of the area. Find out about your local shelters beforehand.
  • Know evacuation routes. Pre-establish several different routes in case certain roads are blocked or closed.
  • Family members can become separated during an emergency. Be prepared by creating a plan for how to reach one another. Establish an out-of-area contact (such as a relative or friend) who can coordinate family members' locations and information should you become separated. Make sure children learn the phone numbers and addresses, and know the emergency plans.
  • Quiz children every six months so they remember what to do, where to go, and whom to call in an emergency.
  • Decide how to take care of pets. Pets are not allowed in places where food is served, so you will need to have a place to take your pets if you have to go to a shelter.
  • Post emergency phone numbers (fire, police, ambulance, etc.) by the phone.
  • Assemble a family disaster supplies kit (PDF, 257 KB) and keep a smaller one in the trunk of your vehicle.
In a disaster, local officials and relief workers cannot reach everyone immediately. Help may not arrive for hours or days. You and your family -- and don't forget to include the needs of those with disabilities -- need to be prepared ahead of time because you won't have time to shop or search for the supplies you will need when a disaster strikes.

Most disasters are natural disasters, the result of some force of nature, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. Some natural disasters can be predicted, such as hurricanes and severe winter storms, while others, such as tornadoes and earthquakes, happen with little or no warning.

Some disasters are the cause of human actions, intentional or unintentional. A disaster plan will help with safety, security, and comfort.

Regardless of the type of disaster, there are things you can do to prepare. Contact your local Red Cross chapter, visit the FEMA Web site, or to make sure you are aware of the potential for natural disasters in your community. After you have identified the types of disasters that could strike where you live, create a family disaster plan that can apply to any type of disaster – natural, unintentional, or intentional.

Prepare an emergency supplies kit
Disaster can occur suddenly and without warning. They can be frightening for adults, but they are traumatic for children if they don't know what to do when these events occur. Children depend on daily routines. When an emergency disturbs their routine, children can become nervous. In an emergency, they'll look to parents or other adults to help.

How parents react to an emergency gives children an indication on how to act. They see their parents' fear as proof that the danger is real. A parent's response during this time may have a long-term impact. Including children in the family's recovery plans will help them feel that their life will return to normal.

Families should prepare an emergency supplies kit (PDF, 257 KB) and develop a plan. Practice your plan so that everyone will remember what to do in an emergency. Everyone in the home, including children, should play a part in the family's response and recovery efforts. Remember: make the plan simple so everyone can remember the details.

More information on this topic