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Smoke Alarm Inspection: It’s About Time

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Handyman installing smoke detector

Turn Daylight Saving Time into the Ideal Time to Check your Smoke Detectors

Smoke alarms are an essential part of home safety. It is equally vital that they are not ignored once they are installed. Not following up with routine, periodic alarm check-ups could render the devices as nothing more than well-intended showpieces that merely create the illusion of safety. This lack of attention could come with deadly consequences. To wit: according to data mined from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), one in five home structure fire deaths came from homes that had non-operating smoke alarms present. In most cases, the root of the malfunction was a worn-out alarm or a dead battery.

This particular statistic obviously shines a light on something that is not normally thought about, and therein lays the issue. We tend to forget about our alarms the moment they’re installed; comfortable to assume that they will work in a time of crisis. Even when we see data that demonstrates the need for regular alarm maintenance, following through on this isn’t something that shows up on our radar in lieu of dealing with the ins and outs of our day-to-day routine.

This is something that our family used to struggle with a lot. We knew they were there, and seeing them hanging from the ceilings in our rooms did give us a measure of comfort. But there was a ton of assumption in play. And you know what they say about what happens when you assume (I’d print it here, but this is a family publication).

Alarm clock

This all changed a couple years ago, when my family and I hatched a plan to incorporate smoke alarm maintenance into an annual practice that we’ve been doing for decades; a practice that has prevented me from showing up an hour late for work on Monday morning year after year.
I’m talking, of course, about switching my clocks for Daylight Saving Time; an annual ritual that is rapidly approaching. It makes a whole lot of sense from a practical standpoint. When you “spring” your clocks forward, you’re essentially going from room to room to ensure certain devices are operating as they should. After all, a clock that is reporting the wrong time is an unreliable gadget poised to cause chaos for those that rely on it for accuracy. Since you are in the mindset of performing routine maintenance on a device already, it only seems natural to extend this very same principle to your smoke alarms at the same time. It really won’t take you a whole lot of time to incorporate a smoke alarm inspection into your clock-setting rounds, either. Sure, you may need to use a step-stool to reach your alarm, but lugging that light-weight piece of equipment around with you is small potatoes compared to what could happen if that smoke alarm doesn’t work.

If you put this ritual into practice, and you know you’re going to be inspecting a few older alarms, it may behoove you to take things to the proverbial next level and replace them with new devices. As a rule of thumb, you should be swapping out your alarms every 10 years; if you’re not sure how old your alarms are, it’s wise to err on the side of caution.

WORRYFREE group shot flat

When you replace your smoke alarm, you’ll be in a position to pick up a rather impressive piece of technology. Models like the Kidde P3010CU come equipped with features like a 10-year sealed lithium battery for improved performance, carbon monoxide detection, vocalized hazard announcements, and more. It may be difficult to fathom that a smoke alarm may be your most advanced piece of tech in your home, but it could very well be your reality.

Daylight Saving Time is upon us in a couple weeks. It’s the perfect time to implement the strategy of inspecting your alarms as you “spring forward.” If you’re not completely sold on this idea, look at the stat connecting fire fatalities with faulty alarms again. This is the risk you run by just assuming that your alarms are okay. And again, you should never assume. When you do…well, you know.

Rich Manning is a freelance writer that has been covering Orange County’s food, wine, and lifestyle scene for ten years. He currently lives in Fountain Valley with his wife, two daughters, and two dogs.
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