September is National Preparedness MonthFire Prevention Week is just around the corner — October 9th through the 15th. And the National Fire Protection Association and U.S. Fire Administration want to educate you about the basic, but life-saving, smoke alarm.

Working smoke alarms save lives.

Many people take smoke alarms for granted until that annoying chirp forces them to change batteries. But they are crucial to keeping your family, pets, and belongings safe. They give you an early warning in the unfortunate case you experience a home fire, allowing you to get out of the house without loss of life.

Having smoke alarms installed, however, isn’t enough. Like most electrical equipment, they don’t last forever. And you need to proactively care for them to keep them in good working order.

The consequences of not doing so are sobering. When smoke alarms aren’t present or don’t function correctly, people die. Here are statistics you should know correlating working smoke alarms and fire-related deaths. National Fire Protection Association survey results show that between 2009 and 2013:

  • Three out of five home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
  • More than one-third (38 percent) of home fire deaths resulted from fires in which no smoke alarms were present.
  • The risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms.

What do you need to do to keep your smoke alarms in good working order?

1. Replace all smoke alarms every 10 years.

The National Fire Protection Association and U.S. Fire Administration say you need to replace your smoke alarms every 10 years. Don’t know how old they are? Take a look at the back or side of your smoke alarm where you’ll find the manufacture date. Watch this video and learn how easy it is from Sparky the Fire Dog.

2. Replace smoke alarm batteries twice a year.

It doesn’t matter how long your battery manufacturer says batteries will last. Consumer Reports, among other organizations, recommends you change them twice a year. How long a battery lasts depends on the power your smoke alarm drains from it. If you think there is still life left in a battery after 6 months, transfer it to something that isn’t so critical to your safety. A good way to remember to change smoke alarm batteries is to do it at the same time you change your clocks when you “spring forward” and “fall back.”

3. Test smoke alarms every month.

Make sure your alarm sounds when it needs to. With a simple push of the test button, you can confirm your batteries have juice and your smoke alarm is functioning. If the alarm fails to sound, replace the batteries. If it still fails to sound, replace that smoke alarm as quickly as possible to ensure your safety in case of a fire.

Having a working smoke alarm may not prevent a fire, but it will give you and your family the best chance to escape that fire without loss of life.

Want to learn more? Here are two helpful infographics.

Don't Wait - Check the Date!

Smoke Alarms