NFPA: Smoke Alarms Need Replacement Every 10 Years

Newly redesigned Nest Protect smoke alarms last a decade and represent a sometimes overlooked and overdue upgrade opportunity for CE pros.

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When was the last time you reached out to your clients about replacing their smoke alarms? If it has been 10 years or more, you are overdue.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) used October’s Fire Prevention Month and more specifically national Fire Prevention Week in mid-October to push out a new important message that is being overlooked by consumers: smoke alarms have a finite lifespan. Smoke alarm lifespans can vary, but according to the association, smoke alarms need to be replaced at least every 10 years.

The message added a new wrinkle to this year’s Fire Prevention public safety campaign, which was started way back in 1922. This year’s theme was “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years,” and aimed at better educating the public about this potentially life-saving message.

“While the public generally knows that smoke alarms play an important role in home fire safety, some smoke alarm messages are not as well understood,” says Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA. “Not knowing how often smoke alarms need to be replaced — or that they even have an expiration date — are among them.”

According to Carli, that lack of awareness means some U.S. homes may have smoke alarms that have passed their expiration dates, putting people at increased risk in the event of a home fire. NFPA statistics show that three out of five U.S. home fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or no working alarms.

Well attuned to the NFPA message, the 2nd generation Nest Protect smoke alarm is designed to last up to 10 years. It can automatically test its sensors, speaker, and horn, and has a Split-Spectrum Sensor that detects both fast- and slow-burning fires.  It alerts occupants with a friendly human voice instead of just a horn, indicating where in the house smoke or carbon monoxide have been detected. Finally, Nest Protect can send a mobile notification when there’s a problem or the batteries run low (assuming working Internet and Wi-Fi connections).

A smoke alarm’s age can be determined by looking on the back or side of the smoke alarm, where the date of manufacture can be found. According to NFPA, smoke alarms should be replaced at least 10 years from that date (not the date of purchase or installation). In addition, smoke alarms should be tested monthly.

1 in 5 Smoke Alarms Is 10+ Years Old

The NFPA study results reinforced how important it is for integrators to address the fire safety needs of their clients:

  • Half of Americans (50 percent) have three or more smoke alarms in their current home.
  • Almost one in five Americans who have smoke alarms (19 percent) say the oldest smoke alarm they currently have in their home is 10+ years old.
  • Nearly one in five Americans who have smoke alarms (18 percent) are not at all sure how old the oldest smoke alarm they currently have in their home is.
  • When asked how often they should replace smoke alarms, nine in 10 Americans (90 percent) did not select the correct answer, which is at least every 10 years.

“Working smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in a home fire in half,” said Carli. “That’s why it’s so important to make sure they’re working properly.”

NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week since 1922. According to the National Archives and Records Administration's Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation declaring a national observance during that week every year since 1925.