A smoke alarm alerts occupants to a fire, giving them the time they need to make a safe exit. The alarm must be loud enough to be heard over other noises in the home and wake those who are sleeping.
How loud is loud?
The loudness of sounds is measured in decibels (dB). Laughter is 60 to 65 dB compared to a lawnmower, which is 85 to 90 dB.
What is required?
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) regulates fire codes and mandates that a smoke alarm emit a sound that is a minimum of 75 decibels. The average smoke alarm in North America exceeds that by emitting an 85-decibel alarm.
A smoke alarm cannot save lives if the batteries are dead or the unit is disconnected or broken. It is important to test the alarm regularly and replace the batteries at regular intervals.
Test and replace
Fire protection specialists recommend testing alarms monthly and changing batteries once a year. If the alarm chirps, indicating a low battery, replace it right away.
Where should they go?
The NFPA recommends installing smoke alarms in every sleeping area, outside each bedroom and on every level of the home, including the basement. It is best to interconnect all smoke alarms throughout the home. That way, when one sounds, they all sound, at 85 decibels.
Renee La Chance
Renee La Chance has worked in every capacity known to journalism. She has a degree in building construction technology with a green building emphasis. She has been a small business owner for 30 years. Her interests orbit around sustainable living and preserving natural resources.