NASFM Amends Smoke Alarm Guidance to Recommend 10-Year Battery

The National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) is asking members to review its updated Guidance Document on residential smoke alarms, which now supports alarms being powered by a 10-year sealed battery, and urges its members to begin educating their community about the recommendation.

NASFM made this update based on approval by its Board of Directors of a white paper by the group’s Science Advisory Committee (SAC) regarding the use of 10-year long-life batteries. Presented at NASFM’s annual conference in July, the paper concluded that the organization should recommend the use of 10-year batteries in battery-operated smoke alarms as long as the battery is contained in a tamper resistant, sealed unit. The latter guideline would help prevent consumers from disabling the alarm or replacing the battery with a regular 9-volt battery or AA batteries, and help ensure that both the unit and its battery would be replaced simultaneously.

“As an organization of the top state fire officials, it is our duty to review industry trends and technology and provide direction on ways to continue reducing fire fatalities and providing better protection,” said NASFM President J. William Degnan, New Hampshire State Fire Marshal. “The Science Advisory Committee spent months undertaking an extensive literature review, debating the issue and discussing it with technical experts. We appreciate their dedication and stand by their recommendation.”

NASFM’s updated guidance is consistent with several other organizations that support 10-year alarms, including the Centers for Disease Control, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The issue of longer-life smoke alarms has gained momentum as the number of fire-related deaths in U.S. homes has plateaued. The NFPA reports nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths between 2005-2009 occurred in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoking alarms. Of the inoperable alarms, half had missing or disconnected batteries and another quarter had dead batteries.

Consumer research also indicates that consumers want more maintenance-free protection, such as alarms with longer-life batteries that are easy to replace or do not need replacement and that eliminate the low battery chirps.   Smoke alarms that contain a 10-year lithium battery built into the units address both of these needs.

“Working smoke alarms are crucial to early warning in a fire, and consumers with battery-operated smoke alarms should use 10-year batteries in tamper-resistant units to help ensure that they will have that early warning if it is needed,” Degnan added. “This advance in technology takes the burden off consumers to remember to change smoke alarm batteries, and it will save lives.”

NASFM also recommends that consumers install smoke alarms on each floor, including living areas and hallways, and inside and outside of sleeping areas. For consumers who may find the technology cost-prohibitive, the SAC suggests first placing one long-life battery smoke alarm per floor, including the basement. The second priority should be outside every separate sleeping area. All smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years and tested monthly.

Seeing the benefits and available technologies, several states and cities have passed or have pending legislation to require 10-year sealed smoke alarms. For more information on the SAC’s white paper and the NASFM guidance on smoke alarms, visit http://www.firemarshals.org/programs/fireprotectiontechnologies.html.

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