Triple fatal fire spawns reminder to all: Install, maintain smoke alarms

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- In the wake of a house fire that killed three people over the weekend, firefighters are asking Valley residents to install smoke detectors and make sure they are in good working order.

While this is not a new message -- firefighters throughout the country have long said unequivocally that smoke detectors save lives -- Phoenix Fire Capt. Johnathon Jacobs said Sunday morning's tragedy should serve as both a reminder and a cautionary tale.

"This is an example of where some people may have been able to get out of the home if they had had a little bit of early notification or warning," he said Monday morning. "Smoke detectors give you that opportunity to wake up, especially in these early morning fires, and help your senses get together."

According to the Phoenix Fire Department, most residential fires happen between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

"Deaths from residential fires occur in greater numbers between midnight and 4 a.m. when most people are asleep," the PFD website reads. What's more the National Fire Protection Association says more than 60 percent of home fire fatalities occur in homes that do not have smoke detectors.

"A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the only thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week," according to the U.S. Fire Administration. "Whether you’re awake or asleep, a working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke."

In essence, working smoke detectors can give you those precious seconds you need to escape with your life.

Jacobs pointed that smoke detectors are cheap to buy, usually costing between $6 and $40 depending the model, and easy to set up. If you have any questions, the Phoenix Fire Department will send a truck to your house to help you out.

Most smoke detectors are battery operated, but there are models that can be hard-wired into your home's electrical system.

Safety experts suggest you have a smoke detector on the ceiling of every level of your home, in key living areas and especially inside and outside every bedroom and sleeping area.

Battery-operated units should be tested every month, and you should replace the batteries every year. The entire device should be replaced every eight to 10 years.

Hard-wired units also should be tested monthly, the backup battery replaced yearly, and the entire device replaced every eight to 10 years.

Whether you’re awake or asleep, a working smoke alarm is constantly on alert, scanning the air for fire and smoke.

- U.S. Fire Administration

If you have children, you might want to consider a talking smoke alarm. Research suggests that voice commands are more effective than a tone when it come to waking kids between 5 and 10 years old. If the device uses a recording of a familiar voice, it can also help kids stay calm.

In addition to working smoke detectors, Jacobs said you need to have an exit plan and everybody in the home should practice it.

"When you wake up in the middle of the night, you're disoriented," Jacobs said. "There's a lots of smoke in the house, things like that. Those are going to mess with your senses. You're not going to have a really good idea of where you're at."

In general, firefighters suggest you have two ways out of every room. You also should have a designated meeting place.

The combination of working smoke detectors and an exit plan can mean the difference between surviving and becoming a statistic.

To learn more about various smoke alarms and detectors, including the new talking models, visit,, and

If you have questions about smoke alarms, call the Phoenix Fire Department at 602-534-3919.