The deadliest residential fire in Philadelphia’s modern history took the lives of nine children and three adults in January 2022. The two-unit rowhome, owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), is one of the thousands of individual Philly rowhomes that PHA owns that were previously privately owned.
Although the Philadelphia Fire Department reported that the home had at least 13 working smoke detectors and six carbon monoxide detectors in May 2021, at least four smoke detectors did not sound during the fire. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), approximately 60% of all fatal home fires occurred in homes without working smoke alarms, and 38% of fire deaths occurred in homes without any smoke detectors. However, the USFA estimates that the risk of dying from a house fire is cut in half in houses that have working smoke alarms.
The American Red Cross and Philadelphia Fire Department provide Philly residents with free smoke alarms, batteries, and installation assistance. The Red Cross offers installation during the day, and the Philadelphia Fire Department can install smoke detectors at whatever time is best for residents. You can submit a request for a free smoke detector and batteries using the links below.
Editor’s Note: We’ll be adding some alarm and fire prevention resources to this list as we find them. Have something to suggest? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where to get free Philly smoke alarm installations
Residents in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties can request a smoke alarm installation from the American Red Cross. If renting your home, you must provide the homeowner’s contact information on the form. And while waiting for your installation, you can check out these fire safety tips. The Red Cross offers installations between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Philadelphia Fire Department via Philly311
Philly homeowners who live in their own one- or two-family homes can request a free smoke alarm installation by the Philadelphia Fire Department via the Philly311 app (iPhone or Android), their online form, or by phone by dialing 311. If you’re a renter, your landlord is legally responsible for installing working smoke detectors on each floor of the house. If they have not installed them, you can report a smoke alarm violation to Philly311. The Philadelphia Fire Department is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
How to maintain your smoke alarms
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recommends having one working smoke detector on each floor, in every bedroom of your home, and outside each sleeping area. To maintain them, they suggest the following:
- Replace your smoke alarms every 10 years. You can check how old your smoke detectors are by taking them off of the ceiling or wall and looking at the manufacturing date on the back of the alarms. If your smoke detector was manufactured more than 10 years ago, the USFA recommends replacing it.
- Maintain your smoke alarm batteries. If your smoke alarm is powered by a nine-volt battery, the USFA recommends testing your alarms every month and replacing their batteries at least once each year. If your smoke alarm is powered by a 10-year lithium battery, USFA recommends testing the alarm each month. If it is not working, then replace the smoke detector entirely since you can’t replace a lithium battery. If your smoke detector is hardwired into the electrical system of your house, USFA recommends testing it monthly, replacing the backup battery once per year, and replacing the smoke detector every 10 years.
Editors: Jillian Bauer-Reese, Siani Colón, Zari Tarazona / Designer: Jillian Bauer-Reese
Kensington Voice is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at brokeinphilly.org or follow on Twitter at @BrokeInPhilly.