New smoke alarms are a gift of life

According to safety statistics, more than 3,000 Americans die each year due to accidental fires in the home. Yet in 3 of 5 fatal home fires, no smoke alarm is present. To make matters worse, on average, one child per day loses his or her life in a house fire.

Let’s look at the facts:

1. Smoke detectors save lives

Your smoke detector is a remarkably effective and inexpensive way to alert you and your family to the presence of smoke even while you are sleeping, giving you precious time to escape.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the death rate per 100 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that did not have working smoke alarms compared to the rate in those that did (1.18 deaths vs. 0.53 deaths per 100 fires). This study looked at both single-family and multi family housing.

2. Why they sometimes fail

These units require power to operate. And the most frequent cause of failure is adults removing the battery to use in another device, such as a tv remote control, or the unit being placed improperly in the home.

In fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, 46 percent of the alarms had missing or disconnected batteries. Dead batteries caused 24 percent of the smoke alarm failures.

Fire safety experts strongly recommend “hard-wired” smoke alarms that draw their power from your home electrical system. If that is not possible, consider paying a little extra and getting a new “ten year” lithium battery powered alarm. The battery is sealed and will operate for about a decade without battery replacement.

3. Your family needs an escape plan

Experts say that when the alarm sounds, you have about two minutes to get out safely. But if it’s the middle of the night and you have been sound asleep, you may easily get confused.

So, even with smoke alarms, it’s important to have an escape plan for each member of your family from each room in your home.

Also, don’t forget to designate a meeting place where everyone gathers immediately after the escape.

4. Why you should buy a new unit

Smoke detectors have a service life of about 10 years. After that, they must be replaced. If yours might be that old, it’s safest to replace it now with a new one. They still cost less than 10 bucks, and it might just save your life. On average, nine people die in the United States every day due to fires.

Give your family a gift that matters for the New Year: a new set of smoke alarms.

Atlanta native John Adams is a real estate broker, an investor, and author of The Landlord Survival Guide For Georgia. He hosts a talk show on AM920 WGKA each Sunday at 11am to explore real estate topics. You are invited to submit questions or comments to, where you will find an expanded version of this column.