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CPSC Warns That Smoke Alarms in About 16 Million Homes Do Not Work

Release Date: October 26, 2000

Daylight Savings Time ends on Sunday, October 29, so most of the country will gain an hour when we turn our clocks back. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) suggests consumers spend part of this extra time testing to ensure that their smoke alarms work properly.

Fire is the second leading cause of unintentional death in the home. Each year, nearly 3,200 people die in residential fires, and there are more than 390,000 residential fires serious enough to be reported to fire departments.

About 90 percent of U.S. households have smoke alarms installed. However, a CPSC survey found that the smoke alarms in 20 percent of those households -- about 16 million -- were not working, mostly because the battery was dead or missing.

"Smoke alarms can save lives, but they won't work if they are not maintained," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "They should be tested monthly, and the batteries should be replaced at least once a year or when they make a 'chirping' sound."

Long-life smoke alarms with 10-year batteries have been available to consumers since 1995. These long-life alarms also should be tested monthly.

CPSC recommends consumers place a smoke alarm that meets the requirements of Underwriters Laboratories' (UL) standard on each level of multi-story homes outside sleeping areas, and inside bedrooms. CPSC has worked to strengthen smoke alarm performance and installation requirements.

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

Federal law prohibits any person from selling products subject to a Commission ordered recall or a voluntary recall undertaken in consultation with the CPSC.

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