Ministry of the
Solicitor General

OFM - 04-40b-03

Smoke Alarm Program and Home Escape Planning

Public Fire Safety Guidelines

Subject Coding

PFSG 04-40B-03


Fire Prevention and Public Fire Safety Education


September 2004


Smoke Alarm Program


Under Review


To assist municipalities to develop, implement and evaluate effective smoke alarm programs in accordance with the minimum acceptable model for the provision of fire prevention and fire safety education under section 2 (1)(a) of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997. (FFPA)


Fire statistics show that having a working smoke alarm in the home will increase the chances of surviving a fire. Most fatal fires occur in the home while occupants are asleep. Fire deaths and injuries could be reduced significantly if every home had working smoke alarms and a home fire escape plan.

An effective smoke alarm program will help fire department staff protect residents from fire. Implementing a smoke alarm program will help:

  • Ensure that owners have properly installed working smoke alarms in all residential occupancies
  • Reduce fire deaths, injuries and property losses
  • Educate residents about the importance of installing and maintaining smoke alarms
  • Assist residents to develop and practice an effective home fire escape plan
  • Assists the municipality in meeting its legislative requirements under the FPPA
  • Create positive public relations between the community and the fire department


Local needs should be identified through a risk assessment that involves a review of demographics, residential building stock, residential fire losses, residential smoke alarm surveys and fire service experience. The risk assessment will assist the fire department staff in designing a smoke alarm program focusing on high-risk areas identified through analysis. Communities may also take advantage of various public fire safety programs that incorporate smoke alarm related elements.

Selection and Design

The objective of an effective smoke alarm program is to verify the provision, installation and maintenance of smoke alarms and the adoption of home fire escape planning activities in all residential occupancies. Fire department staff should develop operational guidelines for the smoke alarm programs consistent with the municipality’s fire prevention policy. The activities associated with a smoke alarm program should include any combination or all of the following:

  • Providing smoke alarm and home fire escape planning information
  • Promoting regular testing and maintenance of smoke alarms
  • Providing or replacing smoke alarms and/or batteries
  • Encouraging residents to regularly maintain their smoke alarms
  • Educating residents about the legal requirements for smoke alarms
  • Enforcement of all legislation relating to smoke alarms
    Effectively tracking and evaluating your smoke alarm program
  • Modifying the program where necessary to ensure success

Many municipalities may already be involved in a smoke alarm program. However, in some instances, the current program may not be meeting the specific needs of the community. The revised Alarmed for Life program provides some ideas and suggestions on developing, organizing and implementing an effective smoke alarm program in your community. The program design stage should take into consideration how the program will be tracked, measured and evaluated. This enables one to demonstrate the results of the program in an objective manner.


Implementing a smoke alarm program must involve careful planning and development of appropriate operational guidelines. A smoke alarm program can be implemented in a variety of ways within the community including:

  • Comprehensive training of firefighters involved in the delivery of the program, including public educators and/or community members on the selection, proper installation, maintenance and testing of smoke alarms and enforcement of the smoke alarm legislation
  • Fire officials may wish to consider recruiting sponsors and partners in fire safety from local community organizations that share a vested interest in the fire safety of the community
  • Providing public service announcements to local media such as newspapers, community cable television stations or local radio stations, including success stories
  • Activities during fire prevention week or specific community events
  • Programs such as Risk Watch, Older and Wiser, Kitchen Safety, Babysitting, Heroes or TAPP-C
  • Networking with other community agencies which advocate life safety skills such as your community health unit
  • Fire safety houses which teach community members fire safety skills including home escape planning
  • Use of volunteers, such as retired school teachers or firefighters to assist with smoke alarm initiatives
  • Media days
  • Smoke alarm checks following emergency responses
  • Door to door awareness activities


Evaluation of every smoke alarm program is essential to ensure the most appropriate use of the community’s resources and to determine the impact of the program. Evaluation should be on going and will provide valuable information to measure the program’s effectiveness and assist in determining where to focus program activities. The evaluation will also assist in determining the costs of developing and implementing the program. Evaluation criteria and information will be helpful, should the community wish to develop partnerships and acquire program sponsorship.
To evaluate your programs, measures of effectiveness and efficiency need to be established. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Analysing responses to surveys from community members
  • Tracking the number of households reached by the program
  • Comparing fire loss statistics using the Standard Incident Report (SIR)
  • Comparing fire deaths or injuries
  • Recording success stories within your community
  • Reviewing smoke alarm status at emergency responses
  • Obtaining feedback from all those delivering the program
  • Establishing a baseline to use as a benchmark

A smoke alarm tracking form may be helpful for documenting activities associated with the program, including such things as the number of smoke alarms distributed and installed, smoke alarms tested, batteries provided/replaced, etc.
Program evaluation results will determine success or identify the need to modify the program to ensure success and desired goals are achieved.
A sample tracking form is included as an appendix to this guideline. (PDF version available on request at AskOFM) / HTML)

Codes, Standards and Best Practices:

Codes, Standards and Best Practices resources available to assist in establishing local policy on this assessment are listed below. All are available at . Please feel free to copy and distribute this document. We ask that the document not be altered in any way, that the Office of the Fire Marshal be credited and that the documents be used for non-commercial purposes only.

See also;
CAN/ULC-S553 M86 Standard for the Installation of Smoke

OFM-TG-01-2000 Fire Safety Enforcement
OFM-TG-04-98 Maintenance of Smoke Alarms
01-01-01 Fire Protection Review Process
04-40-12 & 03 Selection of Appropriate Fire Prevention Programs
04-40A-12 Simplified Risk Assessments
04-40B-12 Smoke Alarm Program
04-40C-12 &
04-40C-03 Distribution of Public Fire Safety Education Materials
04-40D-12 Inspections upon Request or Complaint
04-60-12 Records Management
Alarmed for Life! Program Information
For further information about Alarmed for Life contact your Regional OFM office or your local Fire Protection Adviser