Checking your smoke alarm’s age could save your life


By Christina Seidel, CSFD Public Education Officer

Did you know that having a working smoke alarm in your home can increase your chance of surviving a fire by 50 percent? That makes smoke alarms your first line of defense in a fire.

But did you also know you should replace your smoke alarms every 10 years?

That’s the focus of Fire Prevention Week, which begins nationwide on Sunday, Oct. 9 and runs through Saturday, Oct. 15. The theme of “Don’t Wait: Check the Date!” is a reminder to check the age of your smoke alarms and replace them if necessary.

Types of smoke alarms

Photoelectrical alarms have a light source inside that shines onto a sensor. When smoke travels between the light and the sensor, the alarm goes off. These types of smoke alarms are better at detecting slow-moving, smoldering fires because the particulates it detects are bigger than those detected by other alarms. Over time, the sensor inside the detector builds up too much dust — even if it’s cleaned regularly – and it becomes harder for it to detect the smoke.

Ionization alarms can sense smaller particulates that the human eye can’t see. The americium inside the detector gives off an electrical charge, which changes when smoke enters and triggers the alarm. As its electronic components age, ionization alarms become less reliable.

That’s why the National Fire Protection Association recommends you replace smoke alarms not only when they fail tests, but also when they are more than a decade old.

This video shows you how to check the age of your alarms:

Fire Prevention Week Events

  • As part of Fire Prevention Week, your neighborhood can register to participate in the Smoke Alarm Blitz on Oct. 10-11 (Monday-Tuesday). CSFD staff will check smoke alarms in up to 12 homes per neighborhood and even replace batteries if needed. Click here to register your neighborhood by the Thursday, Oct. 6 deadline.
  • On Tuesday, Oct. 11, call either College Station Dominos location between 6-8 p.m. and you can have your pizza delivered by a CSFD crew. If the firefighters find all your smoke alarms in working order, your pizza is free! If any alarms aren’t working, you’ll have to pay for your pizza, but the firefighters will replace batteries or install new alarms free of charge. You can’t lose!
  • On Saturday, Oct. 15, the CSFD Home Safety Trailer will be at the College Station Lowe’s for Safety Day. Kids can meet firefighters and brush up on fire safety in a home-like environment. They can practice calling 9-1-1, hear what smoke alarms sound like, and learn how to escape a home fire safely.

Citizens Fire Academy

Fire Prevention Week also kicks off registration for CSFD’s Citizens Fire Academy program. The free, 12-week program begins Jan. 31 and is designed to provide citizens a fun, interactive and in-depth behind-the-scenes look at their fire department. For more details or to apply, go to The registration deadline is Jan. 10.

For more information about Fire Prevention Week or Citziens Fire Academy, contact me at or 979-764-3712.

Stay safe and remember – Don’t Wait, Check the Date!


SeidelAbout the Author

Christina Seidel has been the College Station Fire Department’s Public Education Officer since 2013. She previously served as executive director of the Children’s Museum of the Brazos Valley and was a teacher for several years in her hometown of Lockhart. Seidel earned a bachelor’s degree in developmental psychology from the University of Texas in 2001.


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