Monday, March 03, 2014

Public Service Announcement about Smoke Detectors

Have you ever noticed that you smoke detector screeching is kind of like a baby wanting to be born? Rarely does it ever occur at a "convenient" time of the day.

Hopefully, when it goes off, it is because you are cooking and the pan gets a little too hot and sends some smoke into the air. I know in my house, it is usually when I am doing the cooking (as opposed to my wife), and then we are all running around with dish towels fanning air by the detectors, opening doors, turning on the exhaust fan, trying to comfort the children who are scared of the loud noise and hate the alarm. These are the easy occurrences.

The scary occurrence is when the smoke detector goes off in the middle of the night, waking you and your family from a deep sleep.

We had an instance of a carbon monoxide (CO) detector go off around 8 pm in August. Somehow, our children were not awakened by the loud noise and my wife and ran around opening windows and doors to get fresh air in the house, yanking the detector off the ceiling, and calling 911 to have the local fire department come and check. When the fire department came, they could not detect any levels of CO, but I made it difficult by opening the doors and windows. They told us that it was probably a false alarm and because they could not detect an parts per million (ppm), we did not have anything to worry about. They said that if an alarm went off again, do not hesitate to call the fire department again. We went to sleep that night, and unfortunately, the firemen demonstrated some precognition because at 1:30 in the morning, the alarm went off again.

This one was extra scary because now my wife and I were awoken from a deep sleep, and disoriented, we had to figure out what was going on. Again, we called the fire department and again, they detected no CO, but recommended that we keep the alarm that keeps going off unplugged and replace it once stores open. We apologized for having them come our for nothing, twice, and they selflessly said that it is their job. They were glad that it was a false alarm and that no one was injured or in danger. They also apologized because one of the firemen admitted that he should have advised to keep that one detector unplugged.

This morning, after I dropped my kids off at school, I came hope and no sooner than 5 minutes of being at home, the CO monitor alarm went off. Thankfully, the kids and wife were out of the house and I was home because of a day off from school. We repeated the 911 call and it was the same firefighters from August who came to the house. They checked all over and found 0 ppm of CO, again. In our discussion, the firemen shared some information that I want to pass on.

Smoke detectors and combination smoke and CO detectors are only supposed to last 5 years. They are all date stamped in the back. I found some in our house from 2006. I called customer service of the company that manufactured the detectors, explained the multiple events and they offered to send me new detectors. As we approach the changing of the clocks for daylight savings time, it is a recommended time to check all smoke detectors and put it new batteries, I pose the following question to you: When was the last time you replaced your detectors, not just the batteries?

You detectors are all date stamped on the back. While I knew about the times of year to change the batteries, I did not know about the need to replace the detectors on a cycle.As a precaution, I have replaced all of our smoke detectors and smoke/CO combo units. This is one appliance in your house that you do not want to find out is not working until it is too late.
Luckily, this was just a learning experience for me and no one was injured. I hope that my experience today will help ensure the safety of your family. Support and thank your local fire protection department.

Please share this with colleagues, students, and families.