Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Smoke Alarm is Possessed (Or How Do I Shut the Stupid Thing Off?)

As a REALTOR® showing houses, I often have to show homes in an environment with chirping. Many vacant homes can be filled with an annoying sound of a battery that needs to be replaced in a smoke alarm. No big deal. It is an easy fix. But some homes, and these are often occupied, have missing smoke alarms and that is another story all together.

I picture someone being woken up from a sound sleep at 2 AM to a house full of shrieking alarms. With their hearts racing, the family jumps from bed and has to decide whether to run outside in their PJ’s and wait for the fire department to find the cause for the alarm or search to see if it is a false alarm. In my experience, this situation never happens during the day. It’s the middle of the night when the smoke alarms malfunction…Always! It’s like the stupid things are programmed to go off  as a defect only after a house has become dark and quiet for 1-2 hours—It’s either that or they are possessed.

I speak from experience…Last night’s experience to be exact. At 1:30 we got the unexpected and unwanted wake up call out of a sound sleep. Usually we just have to find the Firex alarm with the blinking red light and pull the battery. If the device is functioning properly, the house will go quiet and we can replace the battery in the daylight. Last night, we pushed every reset button and the 7 shrieking alarms didn’t stop.  Now fully wide awake, I realized it was time to pull the battery. Yea!! Silence!!

About 15 minutes later, resettled in bed and just about to drift off…BAM! They ALL go off again! Now we are half deaf due to having 4 alarms on the bedroom level of our two-story home, all shrieking at once. We start thinking, is something maybe burning in the attic or walls that we cannot see/smell? My husband offers to check outside to see if there are flames shooting from the roof (and get away from the noise) while I start unplugging the alarms. When I got to the one with the red blinking light…silence! We still had two of the hardwired devices plugged in; one on the main level and one in our bedroom. We were able to go to sleep without further worry of an unseen threat. But after about 30 minutes of ear piercing, mind jarring noise, it wasn’t easy.

We had been through this once before. With seven alarms hardwired into our home, it is always an adventure to pinpoint a malfunction. We even have spare alarms for the process now. But it is a job best done during the day with a clear head.

We don’t just slam in new batteries and hope that would resolve the problem. We have done that in the past but replacing the battery won’t keep a defective alarm from an unwanted, heart-stopping wake up call.   

Here’s our process for finding a malfunctioning smoke alarm:
1.      Disconnect all the alarms.
2.      Remove the battery of the first unit.
3.      Push the test button until all of the charge is drained.
4.      Wait a 10-15 seconds.
5.      Install a brand new battery.
6.      Reconnect the alarm to the ceiling.
7.      Wait an hour or so.

If all remains quiet, with an exception of a double beep from the alarm noting it reset approximately 10 minutes after the install, we are good to move on to next smoke alarm.

I know it sounds like a pain in the neck to do it this way but it is cheaper than replacing all alarms. (We have done that too!) It was obvious last night that we had a defective alarm. That sound barrier shattering noise that wouldn’t stop had us ready to take a hammer to every alarm….but common sense prevailed. We know it is foolish not to have fire alarms in our home so we won’t just leave them down or in disrepair. But we don’t want to end up with another middle of the night wake up call either. This step by step process will keep us safe and get the defective unit that triggers the long term shrieking out of house for good!

As  Daylight Saving Time ends today, it is the day to Change Your Clocks and Change Your Batteries! And don’t forget to change the backup battery in the carbon monoxide detector too.

Copyright 2012