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Fire Official Warns of Faulty Home Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors last a decade, but many residents don't realize they need to be replaced.

Editor's note: the following was written by Tom Granat, assistant fire chief for Fairmount Fire Company in Washington Township. Granat warns residents that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors must be taken care of and replaced when needed.

Dear Editor,

Picture this: you are enjoying a peaceful slumber one night in your home, dreaming of winning the lottery and not having to get up for work tomorrow, when all of a sudden, at zero dark thirty, and you are awakened by the sound of your smoke detectors blaring. You jump out of bed and think about getting your family outside to safety. Your heart races as you wake up the children and move outside. You are all out safely, waiting on the front lawn or perhaps in your car (why does it take a car so long to heat up?) for the fire department to arrive. The firefighters arrive and enter your home and do an investigation. You hope they don’t find anything wrong. After a few minutes one of them emerges from your home holding your smoke detector and tells you that it is past its useful life and that is why it went off. You respond with a quizzical “I didn’t know that smoke detectors wore out?”

I have been at this same type of call three times this year and those homeowners didn’t know that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors have a useful life and then need to be replaced, so I thought I should write something to let everyone know.

The useful life of a smoke detector is 10 years from the date of manufacture. The manufacturing date is stamped on the back of the detector somewhere. A carbon monoxide detector only has a useful life of 5 years. If after looking at the back of your detectors and you can’t find a date, it is older than 10 years. After the useful life has passed, 3 things can happen: 1- the detector may keep working for a while, how long is just a gamble; 2- the detector will just go off for no reason; 3 some detectors may not go off at all, ever again. How do you know?  How many of us actually use the test button once a month to insure the detectors work as the instructions say?  How many of us actually hit the test button after we faithfully replace the battery in each unit every year?

Take a few minutes and check the manufacturing dates on your detectors to insure they are within their useful life and doing their job. If you can’t check the manufacturing date on your detectors or don’t know anyone who can do it for you, send me an e-mail with your address if you live in Washington Township and I will see about getting someone to check them for you.

Tom Granat
Assistant Chief
Fairmount Fire
granat@34fire.org  

Tracy Tobin February 04, 2014 at 03:47 PM
Timely suggestion Tom! I check the ones in the house every so often, but the one in the garage doesn't always come to mind.
Bruce Clark February 05, 2014 at 06:34 AM
Very helpful posting, Tom
Jeff February 05, 2014 at 09:29 AM
I agree with you Tom and I already assign the task of servicing and testing of smoke alarm installed in my home to professionals on annual basis. Thank you for sharing your views. www.detectorinspector.com.au
Kayli's Mom February 05, 2014 at 12:49 PM
Great advice - thank you, Tom!

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