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State Fire Marshal


Bruce Gordon, Director of Communications
Jen Longaecker  651-201-7570
October 30, 2015
Smoke Alarms Save Lives -- But Only If They Work
Change Your Alarm Batteries When You Change Your Clocks This Weekend
ST. PAUL, Minn. — People die every year in Minnesota homes where smoke alarms are absent or not properly working. 

Those deaths are preventable, which is why State Fire Marshal Bruce West urges everyone to put fresh batteries in home smoke and carbon monoxide alarms when they turn their clocks back one hour this weekend. Smoke alarms need to be checked monthly and batteries changed at least twice a year.  

The peak time for home fire fatalities is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., when most people are sleeping. Last year in Minnesota, nine of the state’s 44 fire deaths took place in homes without smoke alarms or without operable smoke alarms.

“These devices save lives every day and ignoring them can be a fatal mistake,” West said.

West said the most common reason alarms don’t work is dead or missing batteries. Some people even remove them for other uses or to eliminate nuisance alarms.

“They’re gambling with their lives,” West said. “When fire strikes, working alarms and a good escape plan become life-or-death issues.”

In addition to changing alarm batteries this weekend, West recommends the following:
  • Dust or vacuum smoke and CO alarms when you change batteries.
  • Test alarms once a month using the test button.
  • Replace the entire alarm if it’s more than 10 years old.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement, and place them inside and outside of sleeping areas.
  • Interconnect alarms in your home so that when one sounds, they all sound.
  • Make sure everyone in your home knows how to respond when alarms sound.
  • Prepare and practice an escape plan to get everyone out of your home safely. 

About the Minnesota Department of Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.

About the State Fire Marshal Division
The mission of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety State Fire Marshal Division is to protect lives and property by fostering a fire-safe environment through fire/arson investigation, code development and enforcement, regulation, data collection and public education. Data collected by the State Fire Marshal Division from fire departments statewide is analyzed and used to determine the best methods of public education and enforcement to improve fire safety in our state.

2014 State Fire Marshal Division Highlights

  • Staff answered 1,866 fire code questions via phone and email
  • Investigators assisted on more than 400 fire/arson cases
  • The Fire in Minnesota archive is online


445 Minnesota Street, Suite 100 | Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101-5155 |