Fire Extinguishers and Smoke Detectors

Fire Get A Working Smoke Alarm


Protect Yourself and Your Family Today!


In the event of a fire, properly installed and maintained smoke alarms will provide an early warning alarm to your household. This alarm could save your own life and those of your loved ones by providing the chance to escape.


Why Should My Home Have Smoke Alarms? In the event of a fire, a smoke alarm can save your life and those of your loved ones. They are a very important means of preventing house and apartment fire fatalities by providing an early warning signal -- so you and your family can escape. Please do your part to help reduce the number of fire injuries and death. Properly installed and maintained smoke alarms are the key to ensuring early notification in the event of a fire. This is critical to improving the chance of surviving in a fire! Smoke alarms are one of the best safety devices you can buy and install to protect yourself, your family, and your home.


What Type of Smoke Alarms Should I Buy? Effective April 1, 2010, the Iowa State Fire Marshal will be requiring dual sensor smoke alarms in all new residential construction.  Most detectors in homes currently use 'ionization' technology to detect the smoke. Ionization detectors are best at the early detection of rapidly spreading, flaming fires. Some homes may have detectors that use 'photoelectric' technology to detect the smoke. Photoelectric detectors are best at the early detection of slow burning, smoldering fires. Dual-sensor smoke detectors combine both technologies into one detector.


Do I need to replace my old smoke detectors right now? If the ionization or photoelectric smoke detectors in your home currently meet all the manufacturer's recommendations, you are not required to replace them with dual-sensor detectors by April 1, 2010. However, when you have a detector that needs to be replaced after April 1, 2010, it must be replaced with a dual-sensor detector.   Of course, if you are replacing detectors before April 1, 2010, the Mason City Fire Department recommends the dual-sensor detectors.


Okay, Where Do I Put Them? Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement. Many fatal fires begin late at night or in the early morning. For extra safety, install smoke alarms both inside and outside sleeping areas. Since smoke and many deadly gases rise, installing your smoke alarms at the proper level will provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.


Where Would I Get Smoke Alarms? Many hardware, home supply, or general merchandise stores carry smoke alarms. If you are unsure where to buy one in Mason City, call the Fire Department (641.421.3640) and we will provide you with some suggestions on where to buy.  The Fire Department does not recommend any particular brand over another. Some smoke detector companies have discount coupons on their websites to help reduce the cost of home detectors.


Are Smoke Alarms Hard to Install? If your smoke alarms are hard wired, that is wired into the electrical system, you will need to have a qualified electrician do the initial installation or install replacements.  For battery powered smoke alarms, all you will need for installation is a screw driver. Some brands are self adhesive and will easily stick to the wall or ceiling where they are placed.  For all smoke alarm installations, be sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions because there are differences between the various brands.  If you are uncomfortable standing on a ladder, ask a relative or friend for help. Please call the Fire Department (641.421.3640) if you have problems installing a smoke alarm.


How Do I Keep My Smoke Alarm Working? If you have a smoke alarm with batteries:


  • Smoke Alarms powered by long-lasting batteries are designed to replace the entire unit according to manufacturer’s instructions.


  • In standard type battery powered smoke alarms, the batteries need to be replaced at least once per year and the whole unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.


  • In hard-wired, battery back up smoke alarms, the batteries need to be checked monthly, and replaced at least once per year. The entire unit should be replaced every 8-10 years.


What if the Alarm Goes Off While I’m Cooking? Then it’s doing its job. Do not disable your smoke alarm if it alarms due to cooking or other non-fire causes. You may not remember to put the batteries back in the alarm after cooking.  Instead clear the air by waving a towel near the alarm, leaving the batteries in place. The alarm may need to be moved to a new location. Some of the newer models have a “hush” button that silences nuisance alarms.


How Long will my Smoke Alarm Last? Most alarms installed today have a life span of about 8-10 years. After this time, the entire unit should be replaced. It is a good idea to write the date of purchase with a marker on the inside of your alarm so you will know when to replace it. Some of the newer alarms already have the purchase date written inside. In any event, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacement.


Anything Else I Should Know? Some smoke alarms are considered to be “hard-wired.” This means they are connected to the household electrical system and may or may not have battery backup. It’s important to test every smoke alarm monthly and replace the batteries with new ones at least once a year. 


The Mason City Fire Department reminds you of some important fire safety and prevention information.


  • Plan and practice escape plans several times a year.
  • Make sure your whole family knows when and how to call emergency telephone numbers.
  • Obtain and learn how to use a fire extinguisher.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Make sure that your house numbers are visible and readable from the street – day and night.  The Mason City Fire Department can’t help you if they can’t find you!!




A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the Mason City Fire Department arrives; but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the number one priority for residents of Mason City is to get out safely.


Safety Tips

Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing; everyone has exited the building; the fire department has been called or is being called; and the room is not filled with smoke.


To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:

  • Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from
  •      you, and release the locking mechanism.
  • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.


For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher (can be used on all types of home fires) that is large enough to put out a small fire, but not so heavy as to be difficult to handle.


Choose a fire extinguisher that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.


Read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out. Local fire departments or fire equipment distributors often offer hands-on fire extinguisher trainings.


Install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.


Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.