Fact Sheet

Safety Devices

Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are the first lines of defense in the event of a fire in a building.

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms can be battery powered, or connected to the electrical circuitry within the building. These alarms are intended to detect a high level of smoke or particles in the air and emit a loud warning signal. If the smoke alarms in the organization’s building are battery powered, it is imperative that the batteries in the alarms are routinely checked to ensure they operate.

Fire Extinguishers

A portable fire extinguisher is very effective when used while the fire is small. The use of a fire extinguisher that matches the class of fire, by a person who is well trained, can save both lives and property. Portable fire extinguishers must be installed in workplaces regardless of other firefighting measures. The successful performance of a fire extinguisher in a fire situation largely depends on its proper selection, inspection, maintenance, and distribution.

Extinguishers should be clearly visible and conspicuously located and readily accessible for immediate use in the event of fire. They should be located along normal paths of travel and exit. Wall recesses and/or flush-mounted cabinets should be used as extinguisher locations whenever possible. If placed out of direct line of sight, use directional arrows to indicate the location of extinguisher and the extinguisher classification.

Portable extinguishers should be maintained in a fully charged and operable condition. They should be kept in their designated locations at all times when not being used. When extinguishers are removed for maintenance or testing, a fully charged and operable replacement unit must be provided.


Smoke Alarms

The smoke alarms should be routinely tested to ensure that they are working and loud enough to be heard throughout the building. Everyone in the building should be able to hear the alarm and should heed the signal and evacuate the building.

Mounting and Distribution of Extinguishers

Extinguishers will be installed on hangers, brackets, in cabinets, or on shelves. Extinguishers having a gross weight not exceeding 40 pounds will be installed so that the top of the extinguisher is not more than 3-1/2 feet above the floor.

Extinguishers mounted in cabinets or wall recesses or set on shelves will be placed so that the extinguisher operating instructions face outward. The location of such extinguishers will be made conspicuous by marking the cabinet or wall recess in a contrasting color which will distinguish it from the normal decor.


Fire Safety Manual, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Health and Safety

Safety Devices Checklist

Classification of Fires and Selection of Extinguisher

Fire Safety Inspections/Housekeeping