Test Your Smoke Alarm. Now, Ask If Everyone in Your Home Heard It

Strobe smoke alarm

If anyone in your home has some hearing loss, they may have trouble hearing basic smoke alarms, because the sound they emit is high pitched. Now imagine if that person were asleep when the alarm goes off. Would it wake them?  Consider these alternatives:

Vibrate or Shaker Smoke Alarms. These use a vibrating device to shake a bed or chair to awaken and alert you of fire.

A strobe smoke alarm. Strobe Alarms use an extra bright strobe light to alert you of fire. Some strobe alarms also include a vibrator device.

Clocks Change March 13: And Yes, You Should Still Test Your Alarms

Even for smoke alarms that have long-life batteries—or are hard-wired—it’s still important to make sure the alarm is working. Not every single long-life battery will work for 10 years, and even hard-wired alarms can fail. So yes, you should still test your smoke alarms at least twice a year — the Daylight Saving Time change is a good reminder—and once a month is better, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association.

Our “Test Your Alarms” message includes your CO detector. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends pushing the test button on your CO detector (which tests whether the circuitry is operating correctly), to replace the detector at the age recommended by the manufacturer, and most importantly to go outside to fresh air immediately if it goes off.

That goes for smoke alarms too: When the alarms go off, you get out. Searching for the source of the CO or the fire could be a fatal mistake.

Why practice a home fire drill? Because even the best alarm can only protect your family if everyone knows what to do when it goes off. And if that happens at night when people are sleeping—the time when most fatal fires occur—it can be harder than you think to get up and out quickly.

Make sure hallways are kept clear of clutter and that everyone knows at least two ways of getting out—one of them may be a window—especially from bedrooms. Make sure everyone understands how important it is to go to your outside meeting place so if there is a fire you’ll know whether everyone is out. When the fire service arrives, tell them if everyone is at the meeting place and about any pets that may still be inside.

Prevention 1st Conducts Kids’ Poster Contest at Lifespan

Prevention 1st has a long tradition of bringing creativity together with fire safety education. In the fall of 2021, the school districts in Monroe County received complimentary “Fire Drill Reminder” posters and an invitation for students in grades K-5 to enter the Prevention 1st 14th Annual Fire Safety Poster Contest. This year saw 109 local students, representing seven schools and three districts, heed the call by the January 22, 2022 deadline. Last year’s entries numbered 87.

The training room at Lifespan is temporarily turned into a judging room.

“A pandemic of over two years has not dimmed enthusiasm for the poster contest,” said Charly Sommers, the program’s administrator. “The kids share their own unique messages, urging others to take steps to prevent fires as well as how to respond in the event of a fire emergency. Having the contest at Lifespan brings a lot of joy—people are starting to look forward to it now.”

This year’s winners were chosen by the staff of Lifespan, who recently took over Prevention 1st as an in-house program. “Lifespan has served the Rochester community for over 50 years, and we are very pleased to take on the work of Prevention 1st,” said Jody Rowe, Chief Operating Officer at Lifespan. “Providing safety and injury prevention education fits well with our mission to help older adults and caregivers take on both the challenges and opportunities of longer life. Interacting with school-age children through the poster contest is uplifting and offers an intergenerational opportunity.”

Qualifying posters were arranged across surfaces in a meeting room, grouped according to grade level. Each employee was given one vote, or “ticket” to be dropped onto their favorite poster in each grade level. Tickets were counted and removed frequently to prevent the influence of popularity. Those who couldn’t vote in person were invited to vote online.

The votes have now all been tallied and Lifespan is pleased to present the results of this year’s Prevention 1st Annual Poster Contest:

Dylan T. (Listwood, West Irondequoit)

Kindergarten: Dylan T. (Listwood, West Irondequoit), submitted by Ms. Nassimos

Honorable mentions: Rhea M., Eloise T., Brooklyn C. (Seneca, West Irondequoit), also submitted by Ms. Nassimos

Remas A. (RISE Community, RCSD #106)

1st Grade: Remas A. (RISE Community, RCSD #106), submitted by Ms. Riemer

Honorable mentions: Thaddaeus D., Elliany B. (RISE Community, RCSD #106), also submitted by Ms. Riemer

Ellie K. (Colebrook, West Irondequoit)

2nd Grade: Ellie K. (Colebrook, West Irondequoit), submitted by Mrs. Ellis

Honorable mentions:  Yohana E., Jayden C., Arianna B. (RISE Community, RCSD #106), submitted by Ms. Riemer

Jimmy N. (Southlawn, West Irondequoit)

3rd Grade: Jimmy N. (Southlawn, West Irondequoit), submitted by Mrs. Stewart

Honorable mentions: Noah N. (Colebrook, West Irondequoit), submitted by Ms. Edell; Emma M. (Southlawn, West Irondequoit), submitted by Mrs. Stewart

MiKenzie B. (Chestnut Ridge, Churchville-Chili)

4th Grade: MiKenzie B. (Chestnut Ridge, Churchville-Chili), submitted by Mrs. Chalifoux

Honorable mentions: Grace M. (Rogers, West Irondequoit), submitted by Ms. LaPierre; Amaris M. (Chestnut Ridge, Churchville-Chili), submitted by Mrs. Chalifoux

Angelise Torres (Abelard Reynolds, RCSD #42)

5th Grade: Angelise Torres (Abelard Reynolds, RCSD #42), submitted by Ms. Graham

Honorable mentions: Isla B., Jaylani M., Adaniel M.G. (Abelard Reynolds, RCSD #42), submitted by Ms. Graham

Qualifying posters met the size guidelines (11” x 17”) and did not contain any personal information on the front of the poster. First prize winners in each category will receive a $50 gift card, and their schools will each receive a check for $200 from Prevention 1st at Lifespan. First prize winners and Honorable Mentions also receive merit ribbons, and all entrants receive a certificate of appreciation for their work.

The coveted Grand Prize, a ride to school on a fire truck, was determined by raffle, open to all students who entered the contest. This year’s Grand Prize winner is: Eric B., a fifth grade student from Abelard Reynolds School #42 (RCSD). Prevention 1st will coordinate the ride to school for Eric when the weather is more agreeable.

Contest posters will be on display at various locations around town beginning April 2022, including the Monroe County Government Office building, Rochester City Hall, and the Frederick Douglass Airport. “We’re also considering putting up some of these posters at our Lifespan service centers,” Sommers said, “as a way of one generation looking after and connecting with another.”

Lifespan conducts this and other programs with the help of volunteers. To find out more about Volunteering with Prevention 1st at Lifespan, please contact us at: https://prevention1st.org/home/contact/.

Sure, Sleep In on Nov. 7 – Just Check Your Smoke Alarms Too

Most people use the gift of an extra hour given by the fall Daylight Saving Time change to catch a few extra Zzzs. Go for it—and when you get up, use another minute to test your alarms.

Ideally you should test all smoke alarms monthly, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. For sure, let the biannual time change be a great reminder. Even for smoke alarms that have long-life batteries—or are hard-wired—it’s still important to make sure the alarm is working. Not every single long-life battery will work for 10 years, and even hard-wired alarms can fail. Test your CO detectors too. They need to be replaced every 5-7 years.

While having a working smoke alarm is important, it’s just as important that everyone knows what to do if it goes off. Make sure everyone in your home knows to get moving right away, because you probably have less time than you think to escape.

When you plan your escape route, include where outside you will all meet. Your meeting place should be a safe distance from your home but where firefighters can see you. Choose something very specific that everyone can remember and find easily: a tree, a telephone pole, or mailbox.

Do you need to update your escape plan? Look around and think about what’s changed in the last 6 months or year. Has an older adult joined your household? Consider whether they should sleep in a room on the ground floor to make escape easier. If anyone in your household has diminished hearing, consider a type of smoke alarm that uses a low frequency, flashing light or vibration.

This year many people are welcoming a return to holiday gatherings. Will guests be staying over? Tell visitors to your home about your family’s fire escape plan, including your meeting place. Show overnight guests how to open deadbolts or security bars. When you or your children are staying overnight at other people’s homes, ask about their escape plan.

Time to Change Your Clock and Check Your Alarms

People often debate the value of Daylight Saving Time. But there’s no debating the value of using this biannual change as a reminder to check your smoke alarm and CO detectors.

Even for smoke alarms that have long-life batteries—or are hard-wired—it’s still important to make sure the alarm is working. Not every single long-life battery will work for 10 years, and even hard-wired alarms can fail. So yes, you should still test your smoke alarms at least twice a year — once a month is better, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. Replace smoke alarms after 10 years.  

This is also a good time to check your CO detectors. Press and hold the Test Button on the front of the alarm until the alarm sounds (it may take up to 20 seconds). And look on the back, or near the battery compartment, for the date of manufacture. Most have a lifespan of no more than 7 years. Once you know your alarms are working, make sure everyone in your home knows what to do when the alarm goes off. Getting out may be more complicated than you think, especially if there are young children or people with disabilities in your home. And anyone may find it hard to respond quickly if the alarm goes off in the middle of the night. Go to homefiredrill.org to learn how to plan and practice a home fire drill.

When Fire Moves Outside

A campfire casts a warm glow and a sense of adventure—even if it’s in your own backyard. Cooking dinner outside on a grill can make any meal “our favorite!” This year, being outside is a special pleasure. As we move outdoors and bring fire with us, it’s important to bring safety as well.

  • Pick your spot carefully. Whether it’s a grill or firepit, make sure it’s well away from houses and sheds, vehicles, shrubs and trees including low-hanging branches.
  • Enforce a “3-Foot Rule” just as you do for the stove. Keep children and pets at least three feet from the fire or grill.
  • Never use gasoline or kerosene on either a grill or a campfire.  If you’re using starter fluid with your grill, never put the fluid on a hot grill. Make sure lighter fluids are stored securely and away from children.
  • Resist the belief that bigger is better when it comes to campfires! A roaring blaze can more easily get out of control, and can send embers long distances.
  • Just as you wouldn’t leave the stove unattended, never leave your campfire or grill unattended. Put a campfire out completely before you go to bed. When you’re done with a charcoal grill, let the coals cool completely before moving or storing it.
  • Store lighters and matches out of sight and reach of children.
  • Model safe behavior for your children, treating fire with respect. Avoid assigning fire tasks to children too young to understand fire risk or react if something unexpected happens. To learn more about what children understand about fire.

Prevention 1st Fire Safety Poster Contest Winners Announced!


NYS Senator Joe Robach, Marlene Hamman-Whitmore and
Rochester Fire Marshal Christine Schryver judge the posters

Talented young artists from schools throughout the area–RCSD Abelard Reynolds School #42, Cobbles Elementary School, East Rochester School, Harris Hill Elementary School, Honeoye Falls Manor School, RCSD Pinnacle School #35, Scribner Road Elementary School, St. Joseph School, and the Charles Finney School–contributed posters to the contest this year.

Congratulations to our 1st Place Winners in each category:


Rishaan Shah, 1st Grade, Scribner Road Elementary School

Juliette LaBarr, 4th Grade, The Charles Finney School

Alyssa Klawon, 5th Grade, RCSD School #42

Honorable mentions go to:


Youngju Noh, 3 Grade, Cobbles Elementary

Emma Thomas, 1st Grade, St. Joseph School

Abdisadik Ali, 5th Grade, RCSD School #42

Antonio Dixon, 5th grade, RCSD School #42

Hyoju Joanne Noh, 1st Grade, Cobbles Elementary School

And congratulations to fifth-grader D’angelo Dixon, the lucky winner of a random drawing of all poster artists, who will get a ride on a firetruck to RCSD Abelard Reynolds School #42, courtesy of the Rochester Fire Department!

Prevention 1st would like to thank this year’s judges for their work in choosing this year’s winners:  New York State Senator Joe Robach, Rochester Fire Marshal Christine Schryver, and Memorial Art Gallery Education Director Marlene Hamman-Whitmore.

Posters were judged on both artistic merit and the impact of its fire safety message. All participants will receive a certificate and all posters will be displayed at the following locations around the city and county during March:

Rochester Public Library Children’s Center (winners and honorable mentions)

Monroe County Office Building

Rochester City Hall

Rochester International Airport

Rochester Museum and Science Center

The Mall at Greece Ridge

Marketplace Mall

Canandaigua National Bank

Eastside Family YMCA

When the Smoke Alarm Goes Off, Get Out. You Have Less Time Than You Think.

Fire and smoke spread faster in modern homes.

Having a working smoke alarm, responding right away when it sounds, and having and practicing a plan to get out quickly are more crucial today than ever.

Modern homes are more susceptible to rapid fire spread, according to a study* by UL, a global safety certification company. The average U.S. home size has increased 56% since 1980, and more homes have two stories. The larger the home, the more air is available to sustain and grow a fire. Newer homes are also more likely to incorporate open floor plans, taller ceilings, great rooms and two-story foyers, which can contribute to rapid smoke and fire spread.

Modern building materials and furnishings are also more likely to include faster-burning synthetic materials and/or combustible materials.

UL conducted a number of fire experiments involving rooms made with either modern or “legacy” materials (contents that might have been found in a mid-20th century house), recording the time it took for “flashover” (a fire spreading very rapidly across a gap because of intense heat) to occur. These experiments found that while flashover took 29 minutes or more in legacy rooms, in modern rooms it took less than 5 minutes. In addition, modern windows and doors fail more rapidly than their legacy counterparts, which can allow more air in to fuel the fire.

Average fire department time to residential fires from 2004 to 2009 was approximately 6.4 minutes according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

A working smoke alarm can reduce your risk of dying in a fire by 50%–if it is working, you respond to it immediately, and you can get out quickly, even in darkness. Here’s how to keep yourself and your family safer:

  1. Test your smoke alarms, ideally monthly, even if they have long-life batteries or are hard-wired.
  2. Plan ahead, and know how everyone in your home will get out, especially from bedrooms.
  3. Keep bedroom doors closed; whether modern or legacy they provide a barrier against smoke and heat. Feel the door with the back of your hand. If it’s hot, put down a towel or other material to keep out smoke, and go to a window to exit or signal to firefighters.
  4. If the alarm sounds, don’t waste time looking for the source—get out, then call 9-1-1.

*Kerber, S. Analysis of Changing Residential Fire Dynamics, UL, 2012.

How Safe Is Your Airbnb?

How Safe Is Your Airbnb?

When searching for your next Airbnb you might check out location, number of bedrooms, and whether it has a kitchen. But what about fire safety?

A study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed Airbnb listings across 17 countries. It found that less than half of Airbnb venues that allow smoking are equipped with smoke detectors, while nearly two-thirds of venues that do not allow smoking are equipped with smoke detectors.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoking was the leading cause of home fire deaths in the U.S. for the five year period of 2012-2016. Overall, one of every 31 home smoking material fires resulted in death.

A working smoke alarm can cut your risk of dying in a fire by 50%–but it must be working. Test smoke alarms when you arrive at your Airbnb, and take note of all exits and the pathways to them. Think about how you will get out if the alarm sounds in the middle of the night. Be sure to keep pathways free of clutter.

If you smoke, use only fire-safe cigarettes, use a deep sturdy ashtray, don’t discard cigarettes in vegetation such as potted plants, and never smoke in bed.