STOWMassachusetts fire officials are asking the public to look twice when purchasing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, especially when buying online. Always look for a mark confirming that your alarm is listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Intertek ETL and choose alarms from a well-known national brand.

Rowley Fire Chief Mark Emery, State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey, and Shrewsbury Fire Chief James Vuona, president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts, issued the reminder after members of the Rowley Fire Department recently identified multiple alarms with counterfeit marks during separate residential inspections. The alarms had been purchased through online retailers.

“We discovered these counterfeit alarms during inspections prior to home sales, but there may be many more that we haven’t seen,” said Chief Emery. “It’s important that every residence has working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and it’s equally important that these alarms be reliable. Alarms that aren’t tested by an independent laboratory may not protect you when you need them most.”

The Massachusetts Comprehensive Fire Safety Code and State Building Code require that all smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and combination alarms be listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.  Currently, only Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Intertek Testing Services NA, Inc. (Intertek) are permitted to test and list smoke and/or CO alarms in the United States. The thorough review process these laboratories use helps ensure that alarms will accurately detect hazards, alert the consumer promptly, and perform other critical functions. Inspectors have found counterfeit alarms purchased online that do not detect hazards as advertised.

“Choose alarms from a well-known national brand,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “We count on smoke and CO alarms to alert us to life-threatening danger. It may be cheaper to buy an alarm sight unseen online, but if the price seems too good to be true then it probably is.”

In addition to choosing listed smoke and carbon monoxide alarms from a reputable brand, residents should also know when to replace them. Smoke alarms and most combination smoke/CO alarms should be replaced after 10 years. Most carbon monoxide alarms should be replaced after five to seven years, depending on the make and model, or when the end-of-life signal activates.

“Just like batteries, smoke and CO alarms don’t last forever,” said Chief Vuona. “If your alarm takes alkaline batteries, replace the batteries twice a year. We recommend doing this when you change your clocks.  When it’s time to buy a replacement alarm, choose one that has a sealed, long-life battery and a hush feature – you won’t have to worry about changing the battery for the life of the device. And remember to test your alarms once a month to be sure they’re working properly.”

To learn more, visit the DFS Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms page.