Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are key to the project, since this is the primary reason for the visits. You can often get smoke alarms donated through some of your local retailers such as Wal*Mart, Lowe’s or Home Depot. First Alert also offers a special pricing for fire departments that are buying in bulk.

There are a number of different smoke alarms available that you can use with different sensors. This is an area of controversy in the fire safety world, and there is no clear-cut answer. We prefer using photoelectric smoke alarms with long-life batteries.

In regards to the batteries, you may see the phrase “10-year batteries.” In reality, according to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and the battery manufacturers, there is no 10-year battery. There are long-life batteries that will last longer than one year, but none that will last 10 years.

You should install the smoke alarms with either the battery that comes with it or with an acceptable alternative that is listed by the manufacturer in the instructions.

The smoke alarms should be installed per the manufacturers instructions. General rules of thumb:

  • Do not put smoke alarms within 20 feet of a cooking appliance
  • If you must put a smoke alarm near a cooking appliance, it should be a photoelectric smoke alarm
  • Smoke alarms should be installed on every floor, inside each bedroom, and in the hallway outside of the bedrooms.


A short, collapsible, step ladder is important to have since the smoke alarms need to be installed on the ceilings or on the walls, near the ceilings.



A cordless drill with a screw bit is mandatory to quickly and properly install the smoke alarms. While the manufacturer instructions call for using plastic anchors and then screws to mount the smoke alarms, we (and a number of fire departments) generally use sheetrock screws without the plastic anchors.

Hand Tools

It is helpful to have some small hand tools such as a hammer, screwdriver, measuring tape, knife and pliers. A multi-tool may be a good alternative as well.


Some of the areas in the house may be dark, such as in the basement, so having a flashlight along is very helpful.

Clipboard and Forms

It is important to document the visit. The Vision 20/20 project has developed a standardized set of forms that you can use (click here for a model), and these forms can also be used online on a tablet computer as well. For more information, contact Ed Comeau at Vision 20/20.

Tablet Computer

Tablet computers can be used to document the visit with online forms developed for free by Vision 20/20. In addition, they can be used to show fire safety videos to the occupants. An app was developed by the Washington Association of State Fire Marshals that you can download for free with videos on smoke alarms, speed of fire, cooking safety and heating available in four languages. Apple Store and Google Play

Trash bags

You’ll be surprised at how much trash you will generate! Having a trash bag in your vehicle is helpful,