Working smoke alarms save lives and are the first line of defence in fire escape planning. Most fatal fires occur at night when people are sleeping. A working smoke alarm will detect smoke and sound to alert you.

Homes today burn up to eight times faster than they did 50 years ago and you may have less than 60 seconds to escape a fire in your home. Working smoke alarms can increase your chances of surviving a fire by up to 50%.

Installing working smoke alarms can save your life, but it's also the law. All Ontario homes must have a working smoke alarm on every storey and outside all sleeping areas. You should also install alarms in every bedroom. This applies to single family, semi-detached and townhomes, whether owner-occupied or rented.

Learn more about smoke alarms with the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs.

Frequently asked questions

View our frequently asked questions (FAQs) to learn more about smoke alarm installation and maintenance.

 How do I choose the best alarm?

There are many smoke alarms available with different features and applications. Some features to consider are:

  • Power Source: Smoke alarms can be electrically powered, battery-powered, or a combination of both. If you are installing an electrically powered alarm, you should have a battery back-up in case of power failures.
  • Technology: Most smoke alarms use either ionization or photoelectric technology. Ionization alarms may respond slightly faster to flaming-type fires, while photoelectric alarms may be quicker at detecting slow, smouldering fires.
  • Pause Feature: Smoke alarms with a pause button are highly recommended, as it allows the alarm to be temporarily silenced without disconnecting the power source.
 Where should I install smoke alarms?

It's the law to install working smoke alarm on every storey of the home and outside all sleeping areas. You should also install alarms in every bedroom.

Because smoke rises, you should install smoke alarms on the ceiling. If this isn't possible, install the alarm high up on a wall. Avoid putting smoke alarms too close to bathrooms, windows, ceiling fans and heating and cooking appliances. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when installing smoke alarms.

 How do I maintain my smoke alarms?

Test your smoke alarms at least once per month by pressing the "Test" button. When pressing the button, the alarms should sound. If it does not sound, ensure the battery is installed correctly or replace the battery. If the alarm still doesn't sound, replace the alarm with a new one.

Follow these other tips to ensure you and your family are always protected:

  • Replace batteries regularly. Change your batteries when you change your clocks in the spring and fall. When the warning chip sounds, this indicates your battery is low. Replace it immediately.
  • If you think your smoke alarm is more than 10 years old, replace it. Smoke alarms wear out. A hassle- and worry-free way to update smoke alarms is to buy and install 10-year-battery smoke alarms. These easy, enduring alarms offer decade-long protection.
  • Clean your smoke alarms. Dust can clog an alarm. Gently vacuum alarms every six months using a soft brush. Never vacuum electronically connected alarms, unless you shut off the power first. Test your unit when you are finished cleaning.
  • Handle nuisance alarms. Steam from the shower, or cooking in the oven, stove or toaster can cause smoke alarms to activate. If these nuisance alarms occur, do not remove the battery. Try relocating the alarm to a similar spot in the area. Moving the alarm just a few inches can make a difference. You can also temporarily silence alarms by pushing the pause button if there is one on your alarm. Replace alarms located near kitchens with photoelectric types.
  • Plan your escape with a home escape plan and call 9-1-1 from outside the home using a cell phone or neighbour's phone.
 What are the responsibilities of landlords and tenants?
 Landlords must install and maintain smoke alarms on every storey of the home, outside all sleeping areas and in bedrooms.

Tenants must leave the home as soon as an alarm sounds and you suspect fire. If you are a tenant of a rental property and do not have the required number of smoke alarms, contact your landlord immediately. It is also against the law for tenants to remove the batteries or tamper with an alarm in any way.

Failure to comply with the Ontario Fire Code's smoke alarm requirements can result in a fine or legal action.

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