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Don’t Wait: Check the Date!

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The Fire Prevention slogan for this year is “Don’t Wait, Check the Date”.  Smoke detectors have been around a long time, and sometimes we think if we change the battery every time we change our clocks they will last forever.  Unfortunately, those smoke detectors in your house need to be replaced, usually every ten years.

Carbon monoxide detectors are designed with an end of life chirp that lets you know they are near the end of their useful life.  The chirp is a good thing, at least now that people know what the chirp is all about.  Firefighters responded to many thousands of calls for these chirping carbon monoxide detectors, but now there has been some education and residents know to replace those detectors as well.

I remember the first smoke detectors that were put up in my house.  I was just a kid and didn’t know what they were all about.  The only thing I knew was to go outside if they made noise, and that they needed a special battery that was expensive but lasted a long time.  We had two in the house, both were in hallways between bedrooms. One was too close to the bathroom and the shower set it off all the time.  They worked well but we never had a fire incident.

My grandfather installed a couple smoke detectors in his house also.  He was an old-time firefighter and was skeptical to anything new.  He didn’t understand why firefighters had to use SCBA’s since he never used one.  He thought it was a good idea to test his smoke detector but what he didn’t know is that you can’t test them with a lighter.  He put his lighter under the detector and found that plastic melts when you heat it up, and that a smoke detector is not a heat detector.

It’s important that we don’t take these detectors for granted.  Firefighters are sometimes the worst at following rules and reading instructions.  I think those qualities are what keep us out of many other lines of work.  We seem to be good at telling everyone to change their batteries in their detectors but do we change our own?  Sure, we are indestructible guys that put out fires but we work every third day and we need to leave our families in good hands when we are gone.

I thought for a while that the building codes were a little overboard with the number of detectors required in new construction.  We used to have two or maybe three detectors in our homes, today there can be 10 or more.  Detectors are in attics, basements, furnace rooms, every bedroom, and even in the kitchen.  I don’t live in a newly constructed house, but I do have detectors all over, basement, attic, and every bedroom.  I guess every time you go to a fire and see where it started you think about adding a detector in that spot.

Don’t just tell everyone else to replace detectors, and change batteries.  If it’s good for them it’s good for you.  Make sure you keep your family safe, even when you leave for work.

By John Morse

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