Get safely back to business with our COVID-19 specific resources

Smoke Detector Inspection

Strengthen your line of defense against fires

Get everyone on the same paperless page.
Rated 4.6/5 stars on Capterra from 76 ratings
Available on iOS, Android and Web
Get started for FREE

Published July 24th, 2020

Smoke Detector Inspection: Why Is It Crucial?

Smoke detector inspection is a routine fire safety check that helps ensure the reliability and safe operation of smoke detectors in the event of incipient fires. It helps determine if a smoke detector is properly installed, well-maintained, and is not expired.

Smoke detector inspections,similar to carbon monoxide detector inspections, are important to realtors and homeowners since they are a prerequisite to acquiring a smoke certificate, or Certificate of Compliance, when selling a property. The smoke certificate, awarded by a local fire department, assures potential buyers that the property they are purchasing comes with functional smoke detectors.

Smoke Detectors and Smoke Alarms: What’s the Difference?

Smoke detectors and smoke alarms both provide an early warning system to ensure the safety of properties and its inhabitants. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not synonymous. Here is how the US National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 72, or National Fire Alarm Code, describes each:

Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors operate as an interconnected system of smoke-sensing devices that send a signal to a building’s fire alarm system when there is a significant amount of visible or invisible particles of combustion. These are not self-contained devices, which means they lack control components and alarm notifications typically found in smoke alarms. Smoke detectors must be connected to a fire alarm system control panel which will then inform smoke alarms to sound. Smoke detectors are often used for commercial purposes and are commonly found in hotels, schools, offices, and other industrial buildings.

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are self-contained, single, or multiple-station devices with built-in speakers, control components, and smoke sensors. Unlike smoke detectors, smoke alarms are often used for smaller properties such as private homes.
Note: Some system-powered smoke detectors found in hotels, apartments, dorms, and lodging houses may sound audible alarms similar to a home smoke alarm system, even though they are industrial smoke detectors part of a larger, interconnected fire safety system utilized by a building.

What is the Code Requirement for Smoke Detectors?

Smoke detector requirements can vary per state, however, property owners can generally refer to the NFPA 72 (2019 Edition) to know the latest safety provisions to fire detection, signaling, and emergency communications.

How to Prepare for Smoke Certification

To earn a smoke certificate, property owners must apply through their local fire department who will conduct an inspection to ensure that smoke detectors and other fire-protection systems meet the standards and requirements of NFPA 72.
Here are some points to remember when preparing for a smoke certification inspection:

  • Trace back when the property was built and the date the last building permit was issued for construction or renovation.
  • Verify the date in which your home was built, including the date in which the last building permit was issued. Additionally, coordinate with your local fire marshals regarding state specific requirements. All of these elements influence smoke detector installation requirements for your property.
  • List the location of all smoke detectors and fire alarms in your property, and determine the age of each alarm. On average, smoke alarms degrade and expire 10 years after initial installation.
  • If your smoke detectors and fire alarms do not meet state requirements, you can purchase and install new equipment yourself or hire professional help as an added precaution.
  • After your new smoke detectors and fire alarms are installed, test them.

Going digital with Smoke Detector Inspections

Regular smoke detector inspections help strengthen a property’s first line of defense against potentially destructive fires. They help save properties, assets, and most importantly, people’s lives. To be more proactive in keeping properties safe and compliant with fire codes, use smoke detector inspection checklists with iAuditor by SafetyCulture. With the iAuditor fire inspection software, property owners can:

  • eliminate paper trail and convert smoke detector inspection checklists into digital smart forms for improved data collection, recordkeeping efficiency, and consistent fire safety compliance;
  • capture photos of identified smoke detector issues and include annotations for better context;
  • easily update smoke detector inspection checklists to match fire code and local state requirement updates;
  • rely on the inspection app’s cloud storage for safe documentation of crucial inspection records;
  • automate the assignment of routine smoke detector inspections to ensure consistency ; and
  • save time and easily share reports for quicker verification.


John Derick Flores

SafetyCulture Staff Writer

Dirk is a contributing writer for SafetyCulture who has 3+ years of experience being a Safety Officer in an international airline. Over the course of his tenure, he worked on projects involving training management, ramp safety inspections, quality & safety certification audits, and safety promotion programs. Further, he is interested in maximizing the power of technology to help make the world a better place.