Firefighters in South Yorkshire had to deal with more than 100 blazes in the last three years where smoke alarms had been fitted in homes but were not working.
The figures come as a study found two thirds of people in South Yorkshire haven’t tested their smoke alarms in months.
And one in 10 people in South Yorkshire admit they don’t follow national guidance to test their smoke alarms weekly.
The findings come on the day South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service launches a major campaign to get people to test their alarms, with a free service which has been set up to remind residents by email, tweet or – for the first time – by text message.
Kevin Ronan, head of community safety, said: “I’m shocked so many people fail to properly maintain what is potentially a lifesaving device.
“Smoke alarms provide an early warning of a fire and can give occupants vital extra minutes to escape, especially at night.
“But a detecter can only save your life if it is working and the battery is checked regularly.”
The fire service has been to more than 100 house fires in the last three years where smoke alarms were fitted but were not working, often because the battery was missing or flat.
The Turner family from Meersbrook, Sheffield, say smoke alarms saved their son Gary’s life after fire tore through the attic in which he slept last month.
Gary, aged 15, was asleep in the attic and the blaze could have been smouldering for hours before flames spread to engulf the room.
Luckily, a smoke alarm fitted on the attic’s ceiling had been checked and maintained.
It went off and woke Gary who then managed to make his escape with the rest of his family.
Dad Bernard said: “It’s absolutely terrifying to think that, without a working alarm, we might have been moments away from losing our son.
“If this incident has taught us one thing it’s that smoke alarms really can mean the difference between life and death.
“Like everyone, we consider our home to be a safe place.
“But the thing that caused this fire was completely random and could happen to absolutely anyone.”
The fire service advises that smoke alarms should be fitted on every level of a home. They should be fitted onto the ceiling, and tested weekly.
The ‘Press The Button’ service gives residents weekly or monthly reminders to test their smoke alarms.
Log onto www.pressthebutton.co.uk to sign up.