The popular name for these devices in the U. S. has been smoke detectors. The manufacturers recently officially changed the name to smoke alarms in order to be consistent with international terminology.

   Over 93 percent of homes in the U. S. now have at least one smoke alarm. As more smoke alarms have been installed, the residential fire death rate has fallen substantially. However, the number of smoke alarms that don't work is increasing, and experts predict that fire deaths will increase again if we do not solve the problem of inoperable smoke alarms. Estimates of inoperable smoke alarms range from one third to one half of homes.
  • The two most common reasons for inoperable smoke alarms are:
  • Disabling them to prevent nuisance alarms.
  • Neglecting to replace units that are past their 10-year service lives.

   Both problems are easily solved, but the sad truth is that has been no concerted effort in the fire service to attack the problem. The section below on how to reduce nuisance alarms gives several tips on how to keep your smoke alarms working.