Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are the cheapest and most effective way to save lives in the event of a fire, particularly at night while we are asleep. You must check to make sure it is working and replace its battery regularly. The best time to do this is when you set the clock forward and back in the spring and in the fall.

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about smoke alarms.

Are Montréal residents required to have a smoke alarm?
Yes. The By-law Concerning the Service de Sécurité Incendie de Montréal requires all Montrealers to have and maintain a working smoke alarm. A smoke alarm is essential to your safety and the safety of your family.

What model should I buy?
Smoke alarms can be electric, battery-operated or a combination of both. First, decide which power source best suits your needs. A smoke alarm that can function on batteries during a power outage is the best choice.

There are also smoke alarms with lithium batteries that last 10 years. These smoke alarms are a great solution for people who tend to forget to change the batteries in their smoke alarm.

There are two types of smoke alarms:

  • Ionization detectors, which are best adapted for rooms that contain highly combustible materials such as cooking oils, flammable liquids, cleaning solutions, etc. These devices react quickly to high-intensity fires.
  • Photoelectric detectors, which react to fires that could be caused by a cigarette burning on a textile-covered surface such as a couch. The advantage of these devices is that they are less likely to react to false alarms from the kitchen or bathroom.

For optimal protection, you could buy a smoke alarm that combines both types.

Before buying your smoke alarm, make sure it is certified by the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada, a recognized standards and specifications organization. Another logo that you may see is CSA, which indicates that certain parts of the smoke alarm were manufactured according to CSA International standards.
Source: Ministère de la Sécurité Publique du Québec.

You can get a smoke alarm at big box retailers and hardware stores for about $10, depending on your needs.

Who is responsible for smoke alarm maintenance?
The occupant of a dwelling is responsible for maintaining the smoke alarm, namely by replacing its batteries.

What type of battery should I use?
Follow the manufacturers' instructions. Remember that rechargeable batteries cannot be used in smoke alarms. Pay attention to any beeping sounds your smoke alarm may emit because they could indicate a malfunctioning device, a spent battery or a fire.

How many smoke alarms should be installed in each dwelling?
One on every floor including the basement, and in rooms where occupants sleep with the door closed.

Where should they be installed?
In the hallway, near bedrooms, in places where smoke would circulate if there were a fire. It can be attached to the ceiling at a distance of at least 10 cm from the wall or the top of the wall and 10 to 30 cm from the ceiling.

How can I tell if it is working?
Just press the test button for a few seconds and listen for the beep. This should be done once a month. 

How long is a smoke alarm's lifespan?
In general, smoke alarms last about 10 years. However, always check the manufacturer's instructions; there may be an expiry date on the package.

When properly installed and maintained, smoke alarms detect smoke quickly enough to alert occupants. Occupants can leave the building and call the fire department by dialing 911 on the nearest telephone.