In April of 2019, the Chicago Tribune published a story regarding the death of two women following fires that started in their homes, both of which had no operational smoke detectors. Months earlier, in August of 2018, Chicago investigators found that the death of ten children in a nearby house fire may have been prevented if the smoke alarms were working.

In general, fire-related deaths are steadily decreasing in recent years due to greater preventative awareness and better technologies. Still, according to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 40% of home fire deaths are linked to the absence of smoke alarms.

In a world where a good smoke detector can be purchased for $8 at the nearest Wal-Mart, it’s alarming that such preventable deaths still plague our communities. Indeed, here at Certified Home Inspections, we write up smoke detector code violation on practically every other house that we visit.

A battery operated smoke detector

The first step to our overall goal of community safety is, of course, education. Even for households that have working smoke detectors, homeowners aren’t always up to speed on the details, particularly regarding placement of smoke detectors, the types available, and maintenance.


For starters, it’s important for homeowners to be aware that every individual bedroom should have a smoke detector. According to Code R314.3 in the International Residential Code book, smoke detectors must be installed:

  • in each room used for sleeping
  • outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms
  • on each story, including basements (though none are required in the crawl space or attic)
  • not less than 3 feet from doors or opening to bathrooms with tubs or showers


Moreover, there are different types of smoke detectors that one can purchase. Nowadays, many stores sell combined smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, both of which are incredibly important to the safety of your family.

Unlike smoke, carbon monoxide is invisible to both the eye and nose. According to the CDC, approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency room due to CO poisoning annually, and at least 430 people lose their lives. Thus, it’s vital that both smoke and CO alarms are placed strategically throughout the home.

Another huge factor that’s wrapped up in types of alarms is in regard to Code R314.4, which specifies the presence interconnected smoke alarms. The advantage of interconnected smoke alarms is that, when set off, each alarm will signal all the other smoke alarms in the house to sound out .


When it comes to maintenance, it’s important to test every alarm at least once a month, and to replace each alarm after ten years (or if they are no longer working).

At the end of the day, a working and properly maintained smoke detector is an incredibly small price to pay for the overall safety of the home. At Certified Home Inspections, our number one goal is to keep your family safe, and we hope our combined efforts as a community can help to chip away at the number of fire-related deaths each year.