I was talking to an acquaintance a few days ago. He is a newspaper photographer and had just come from a devastating house fire where a young couple lost everything…with the exception of their lives. In general things are just things. If you are alive, you can always rebuild. Investigators weren’t sure if the home had working smoke detectors.
When we were talking, I had just finished replacing the smoke alarms in my house. And I don’t mean the batteries, but the entire smoke alarms. Did you know you were supposed to replace smoke alarms every 10 years? It was news to me.
Smoke alarms are electrical devices and as such they can fail. The likelihood that they will fail increases a little bit every year. So, you should test them regularly and then replace them after 10 years. Some new alarms come with 10-year long-life batteries. Instead of replacing batteries every six months (and forgetting) the alarms are sealed. When the alarm stops working, you replace the entire unit. This also helps avoid the temptation of pulling the batteries out of alarms to use in a child’s toy.
According to the National Fire Protection Association
- Three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms
- More than one-third (37 percent) of home fire deaths result from fires in which no smoke alarms are present.
- The risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms.
A couple years ago, I wrote a column about the very first electric Christmas lights. As a publicity stunt, on December 22, Edward Johnson, then the vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company, strung 80 colored lights on a Christmas tree. Before that, house fires were common as people placed burning candles in the dried out branches. (That column is on my website: Christmas lights and December 22)
People aren’t hanging open flames in their trees any more (I hope!) but winter is still the season for fires in fireplaces, space heaters and other devices that can cause fires in homes. While we should do everything we can to prevent a house fire at all, please think about a Christmas gift for your home – replace your smoke alarms.
You can always rebuild after a fire, but not if you don’t make it out alive..