Will the Fire Department Provide Free Smoke Detectors?


Smoke detectors are life-saving devices, and every home should have one. However, according to a National Fire Protection Association or NFPA report, as of at least 2015, five million households across the United States lack a smoke detector. Can you call the fire department and have them send you a smoke detector for free?

Fire departments rarely provide free smoke detectors, but they will install a pre-purchased smoke detector in your home free of charge. This way, you can be confident the smoke detector was installed correctly.

We’re sure you’re very curious about why your local fire department probably won’t give you a free smoke detector. We’ll tell you why ahead, so make sure you keep reading! 

Why Won’t the Fire Department Provide Free Smoke Detectors?

To reiterate what we discussed in the intro, it doesn’t matter which fire department you call in your city or town. They will offer to install a smoke detector free of charge, but they can rarely just give you a smoke detector.

Why not?

It all comes down to liability.

Once upon a time, firefighters used to do all sorts of services outside of providing fire education, rescuing victims, and putting out fires. They would install car seats for new parents and even fill your swimming pool. 

However, if a parent was involved in an accident and the car seat came loose, they’d sue the fire department. If a pool owner’s swimming pool water chemistry test came back imbalanced, they too would sue the fire department.

So imagine what would happen if today’s firefighters issued citizens free smoke detectors. If the smoke detector malfunctioned or stopped working, the fire department would have a ton of lawsuits on its hands.

Yes, that’s even if the person with the smoke detector forgot to change the batteries or if they otherwise caused the malfunction themselves. After all, the fire department issued the smoke detector. If it’s faulty, the fire department must be to blame. 

It’s not that a fire department doesn’t want to help you out. They wish they could, but it’s too risky for them. The few fire departments that do issue free smoke alarms do so at their own risk. 

Can You Get a Free Smoke Detector Outside of the Fire Department?

You decided to check with your local fire department and a few other departments in adjoining cities or towns anyway, and they all told you the same thing. They don’t offer free smoke detectors. 

Is it still possible for you to get a free smoke alarm? More than likely, yes. Try the following avenues.

Your City or Town

Check in with your city or town representatives and ask if they have any initiatives where you can receive a free smoke detector. In many instances, the answer is usually yes. 

Nonprofits

A nonprofit organization might be kind enough to hand out free smoke alarms as well. You’ll have to research the organizations in your neighborhood or state to see what your options are. 

Volunteer Fire Organizations

Fire departments might not typically give out smoke detectors, but volunteer fire organizations could. Here’s a list of organizations for you to try:

  • American Gas Association
  • American Fire Sprinkler Association
  • Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition 
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs
  • National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors
  • National Fire Information Council
  • National Fire Protection Association
  • National Volunteer Fire Council
  • Society of Fire Protection Engineers
  • U.S. Fire Administration 

Now, we’re not saying these organizations will for certain offer free smoke detectors, but it doesn’t hurt to try. At the very least, someone at these organizations might be able to point you in the direction of where you can obtain a free smoke alarm. 

How Much Does a Smoke Detector Cost on Average?

Are smoke detectors a low-cost device? 

Not exactly. The average price of a smoke detector is between $20 and $30. 

For most people, that might not be too expensive, but for those on low incomes or no incomes, that’s a lot of money to ask to pay for a smoke detector.

Besides, it’s not like you’re only buying the detector. You have to purchase batteries too and possibly also tools to install the smoke alarm.

Professional installation can cost upwards of $65. If a $30 smoke alarm is too expensive for some people, then the professional installation would be out of the question.

That’s why it’s a great thing that local fire departments will very often install a smoke detector in your home for you at no extra cost. 

However, that does nothing to change the price of smoke detectors themselves. These devices, considering they save lives, should be affordable for everyone. 

Plus, if you want both fire and carbon monoxide protection in the form of a dual smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm, these devices may be priced at up to $165. 

Although we’re focusing more on smoke dangers in today’s article, carbon monoxide kills silently. Protection from this fatal gas should also be affordable. 

How Often Should You Replace a Smoke Detector?

For those who can spare the expense, a smoke detector will be around for a while. The device lasts on average for 10 years.

Keep in mind that you will have to replace the battery at least once per year but possibly twice annually to keep your smoke alarm working and your family safe. 

Some fire departments still do it, but most will not provide free smoke detectors to local citizens. If the alarm were to malfunction or, even worse, fail altogether, that would be on the fire department who supplied the smoke detector. Lawsuits would result.

If you’re truly in need of a free smoke detector, you do have options. Plus, you can always rely on your fire department to install your new smoke detector for you.

With around five million people in the US still without smoke detectors, please make sure that you’re not contributing to this statistic. Smoke detectors save lives, and every home should have one.

Mike Pertz

I’m Mike, I’m a full time firefighter/paramedic/diver for a department just west of Cleveland, Ohio and the founder of FirefighterNOW. I’m also a columnist for FireRescue1. If you’re reading this blog my guess is you are interested in the fire service. There's information on fitness, gear, interviews, tests and more. I hope you find what you're looking for.

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