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Don't wait for the beep; test now!
Mar 04, 2011

Beeping noises are designed to get our attention. Whether they come from alarm clocks, cooking timers, telephones, car horns, washers or dryers, they all cry out for us to stop what we are doing and focus our efforts on the beeping noise. The beeping noise that smoke alarms emit is also designed to get your attention when they need a new battery, but why wait?

Most U.S. homes have smoke alarms, but most Americans don't test them as often as they should. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends testing smoke alarms at least once a month. However, when more than 1,000 adults were randomly surveyed by phone, fewer than half said they tested their smoke alarms every few months or sooner. Further, only 42 percent had two to three smoke alarms in their residences, and most of them lived in single-family homes. It is advised that you have at least one smoke alarm on each level of the house, including the basement and outside of sleeping areas.

We also have to be aware that smoke alarms have an expiration date. The alarms tend to be more prone to malfunctions and false alarms when they are more than 10 years old. The year of manufacture should be clearly listed on your smoke alarms, and if it is not, they are probably more than 10 years old and in need of replacement, as the requirement for manufacture dates on smoke alarms took effect in the year 2000.

To find out just how important smoke alarms can be, you can look at the circumstances of a Joe Stevens earlier this month at his home in Lancaster County, S.C. On a Friday morning, Mr. Stevens said he woke up at 5 a.m. and started fixing breakfast. He heard a smoke alarm on the other side of the house and went to investigate. He walked to the other side of the house and saw the bedroom on fire.

Just two weeks earlier, Mr. Stevens went through the house with his granddaughter, who is a firefighter. Upon seeing no smoke alarms in the home, they went to the store, purchased three smoke alarms and installed them. Mr. Stevens believes that without the smoke alarms, he and his family may not have been able to get out of the house before the fire consumed it.

This would seem to be a perfect time to spend a few minutes making sure you have enough smoke alarms in your home and test them all to make sure they work. Make sure the battery has been replaced in the past year. Now, take them down or open them up and find the manufacture date and make sure each alarm is less than 10 years old, or it needs to be replaced. Finally, spend a few seconds dusting the inside of the alarm with a feather duster to keep it clean. Let's learn the lesson on having several working smoke alarms from Mr. Stevens.

Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.

IAFF Local 1164
14910 Farmington Rd.
Livonia, MI 48154

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