Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarm requirements

The Ontario Fire Code requires that all homes must have a working smoke alarm installed:

  • on every floor level
  • outside all sleeping areas

This applies to all single family, semi-detached and town homes, whether owner occupied or rented.

Smoke alarm maintenance

Here are a few things to consider when maintaining your smoke alarm:

  • Never remove batteries from smoke alarms. If false alarms are a problem, try moving the alarm to another location or purchase an alarm with a pause feature that temporarily silences the alarm.
  • Replace smoke alarms every 10 years. Don’t Wait - Check the Date for more information (PDF, 293 KB)
  • Test smoke alarms once a month and replace the batteries every year.
  • Clean your smoke alarms often by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Ensure that all members of your household know what to do when the smoke alarm sounds.
  • Develop a home fire escape plan and practice it.

Where to install smoke alarms

Here are a few things to consider when installing your smoke alarm:

  • If anyone in the household sleeps with the bedroom door closed, consider installing a smoke alarm inside the bedroom.
  • On floor levels not containing sleeping areas, install smoke alarms in the living area or at stairwells leading to an upper floor.
  • Do not install smoke alarms in areas of cold temperatures or high heat (see manufacturer’s recommendations).
  • Do not install smoke alarms closer than 1 m or 3’ to kitchens or bathrooms.
  • Install smoke alarms high on a wall or on the ceiling. If mounting on a wall, position the top of the smoke alarm approximately 10 - 30 cm (4” to 12”) from the ceiling. If mounting on the ceiling, position the alarm at least 10 cm (4”) away from a wall.
  • Do not install smoke alarms near vents where air movement may prevent the alarm from working.

When installing smoke alarms, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Know the sounds and what do to

  • Your smoke alarm sounds different than your carbon monoxide (CO) alarm. Test both alarms monthly and make sure everyone in your home knows the difference between the two alarm sounds. Replace the batteries if the alarms do not sound when the test button is pushed. If it still doesn’t sound, replace the alarm.
  • A continuous beeping sound means there is an emergency and you should:
    • leave the house
    • call 9-1-1 from a safe location
    • stay out of the house
  • A chirping sound means the batteries or alarm should be replaced immediately. First try replacing the battery. If the chirping continues then replace the alarm.

Smoke alarms for the deaf and hard of hearing

There are smoke alarms and alert devices that alert people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These devices include strobe lights that flash to alert people when the smoke alarm sounds. Pillow or bed shakers designed to work with your smoke alarm also can be purchased and installed. These work by shaking the pillow or bed when the smoke alarm sounds. These products can be found online and in stores that sell smoke and CO alarms.

Make sure to choose smoke alarms and accessories for people who are deaf or hard of hearing that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory. It’s also good practice to sleep with your mobile phone and your hearing aids or implants close to your bed.

Make sure your smoke and CO alarms meet the needs of all your family members, including those with sensory or physical disabilities.

Some tips:

  • Install a bedside alert device that responds to the sound of the smoke and CO alarms. Using a low frequency alarm can also wake a sleeping person with mild to severe hearing loss.
  • Sleep with your mobility device, glasses and phone close to your bed.
  • Keep pathways and hallways lit with night lights and free from clutter to make sure everyone can get out safely.

Learn more about smoke alarms and CO alarms for the deaf and hard of hearing. (PDF, 252 KB)

Visit the Canadian Hearing Society for more information about alarm alternatives to standard smoke alarms.