PSA: Smoke Detectors

Last week there was a little bit of excitement chez Diehl, as our home alarm system went off in the middle of the afternoon, triggered by one of the smoke detectors (that is hard-wired to the alarm system) on the second floor. I wasn’t cooking (in fact, I was cleaning out our freezer), so it couldn’t be that…and when the alarm company called, I told her to go ahead and send the fire department to check everything out.

I was able to disarm the alarm system, but not shut off the smoke detector through the system (I’ve since learned how to do that…handy info), so I took the boys outside to wait for the fire trucks to arrive. Something they won’t soon forget, I’m sure. It turned out to be nothing; the fire department looked around everywhere and ended up pretty much just ripping our smoke detector off the ceiling, saying it malfunctioned.

Which was true; it did malfunction. Had I know how to turn it off, they wouldn’t have had to rip it off the ceiling to make it stop chirping. We ended up having to have our alarm company rep come to the house and install a new smoke detector, and here’s what I learned: false alarms like this can occur on all smoke detectors, and the primary reason is that they’re dirty.

How come no one ever told me this before? Apparently when dust or pollen gets trapped in the unit, blah blah blah some scientific stuff. Bottom line: every 6 months, you should hook your attachment up to your vacuum and clean the outside of your smoke detectors. Also, be sure to clean things like your air return grills – when those get dirty, that dust just continues to be cycled through the air, causing more stuff to clog up your smoke detectors.

So now, we have the cleanest smoke detectors in the whole county, I’m sure.

Two questions for you:

1. If you live in a 2-story house, do you have some kind of escape ladder on the second floor? We don’t, and it freaks me out a little bit.

2. Jack Henry did not wake up from his nap when the alarms went off (his door was closed, but they were both SCREAMING loud), which scared me, too. Has anyone bought the parent-voice recording smoke detector? Frightening video example here:

6 responses to “PSA: Smoke Detectors

  1. Question for you – at what age did you talk to the boys about what to do if the smoke alarm sounds in the middle of the night – the girls room use to be directly next to us – not anymore with the addition – so now i worry that a fire could seperate us and if they would be strong enough to get out of the window if needed. A couple weeks ago at bedtime Jason tested our new hard wired alarms in the girls room – (great timing dad – (said sarcastically)) which freaked Abby out and got her worried about fire – I didn’t go into a lot of detail with her as I am not sure how much I can tell her without her worrying that our house is going to burn down all the time.

    • That’s a tough one. I think it’s good that she’s heard the alarm (even if it scared her) so that she knows what it is. By 4, we’d told them what to do if there was a fire and how to get out of the house…but that was at the old house, where they could have jumped out their window and not killed themselves (I even taught Luke about throwing something through the window if he couldn’t get it open. He was majorly intrigued by that.). I think I’d give Abby just a little bit of info, and then practice it (which she’ll do at school, too, and believe me, it will make a bigger impact coming from the fireman/her teacher if she’s anything like my kids). We have a “meeting spot” where everyone is to go if they have to get out of a burning house.

  2. 1. we don’t have a ladder upstairs now b/c it’s just eric and i up there. growing up, all our bedrooms were upstairs but we could have gone out billy’s window, onto the roof of our screened in porch and jumped from there.
    2. i didn’t even know they had those voice activated alarms – i would get one in a second.

  3. We have 7 smoke detectors in our house (5 on the 2nd floor) and they are all wired into our electrical system so anytime the electricity goes out, they go off. They also still need batteries, which always need to be replaced at midnight. We have to reset them when replacing the batteries, which makes all 7 go off. My kids have not woken up one time during these middle of the night alarms. Yet the flushing of the toilet wakes them every time. Maybe they should make an alarm that sounds like a toilet or a garage door opener or the key unlocking the front door.

  4. Funny responses. Paige can go out onto the roof of the 3rd garage. My dad JUST found a window ladder in their attic that we will put in one of the boys’ rooms. Because those are some scary thoughts.

  5. Ok, we had a run-in with a serious incident at my parent’s house this past April. The smoke alarm went off and smoke was pouring all through the house when the furnace caught on fire due to an electrical problem. I just grabbed my kids, the phone and the dogs and got out of the house as fast as I could! I understand worrying about older kiddos not hearing the alarm, but I don’t expect my younger ones to hear it and get up. I sleep very light and would jump through the roof if the alarm went off in the night! I like the idea of the parent voice activated alarm though. I’d still get one to have in the house as the kiddos get older. Good to know about keeping those things clean too!
    Thanks for keeping us safe!

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