The Arctic Sounder

New fire alarms to be distributed in each Northwest Arctic village

Northwest Alaska residents can upgrade smoke alarms in their homes this summer.

Northwest Arctic Borough will distribute and install lithium-powered 10-year sealed smoke alarms in every village starting this month, said Chris Hatch, borough director of public safety. The borough will also educate residents on how alarms work, how to test them and how to have a home fire escape plan. Their first visit will be to Noorvik on May 9.

“Smoke Alarms are the most effective early warning device there is during a fire incident and essential to saving lives,” borough officials said in a Facebook post. “Our goal is to make sure residents have the protection of a smoke alarm.”

Smoke Alarms are the most effective early warning device there is during a fire incident and essential to saving lives. ...

Posted by Northwest Arctic Borough on Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Regional battalion fire chiefs identified the need for installing smoke alarms in villages after six people were killed in the fire in Noorvik in January, Hatch said.

“It was reported that there were no working smoke alarms in the residence,” Hatch said.

While the borough has given out smoke alarms over the years, the problem with the older generation of alarms is that they often activate during non-emergencies, and residents turn them off.

“The issue of smoke alarms forever has been, ‘Boy, they start beeping when I cook, or there is smoke in the room, or my shower steams up, and it starts making all this noise,’ and people tend to pull out batteries,” Hatch said.


With the newer sealed smoke alarms, residents can’t pull out the batteries, Hatch said. Plus, the devices are designed to be better at not going off as false arms, he said.

Shipping lithium-powered items into the region takes time, Hatch said, but the borough now has a thousand alarms delivered and more on order.

The Alaska Public Safety Department, Fire Marshal’s Office and the VPSO program supported the project and will send representatives to help with it, Hatch said.

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.