Alarming Smoke Detectors: A Long Story

To avoid fire and any chance of pinpointing a malfunctioning smoke alarm, please have multiple alarms within 2 feet of each other. Make sure they all have identical beeps.

Let me first say that smoke detectors save lives.  I am sure of this fact because if it weren’t so, we would certainly beat them all with bats like the printer in Office Space.  Having duly noted that they save lives and we really all need them in our homes, I can’t help but wonder how it is that we can put a man on the moon but we can’t develop a smoke detector that doesn’t alert me to its battery problem exclusively in the middle of the night?  Clearly we need to get a crack team of scientists working on this.

We bought this house 2 years ago, so it is up to code with the number of smoke detectors it has.  Which, suffice to say, is A LOT.  Per the current code, there has to be a smoke detector in each bedroom as well as at the top of the stairs.  For us, this means that there are four smoke detectors and one carbon monoxide detector keeping us safe within five feet of each other.  Everything was fine until the firefighters from Our Town went knocking door-to-door checking smoke detectors.  They went around with a broom handle and tested them all and replaced any that were expired (evidently they expire, which is not at all annoying).  A couple of days after that, things started to go south.  Here is how it went:

Day 1:  Firefighters checked all the detectors and replaced two that were nearly expired.  Thanks guys.  And to answer the obvious question, no, they did NOT send out the hot firefighters for this detail.

Not the firefighters they sent to my house.

Day 5:  In the middle of the night I was troubled by dreams that involved intermittent beeping.  An undetermined number of hours went by like this and when Husband got up to go to the bathroom, I woke up enough to realize what was happening.  I took down the one from our ceiling, took out the battery and went back to sleep.  45 minutes later, another chirp.  You see, when these damned things turn bad, they chirp once to wake you up.  Then they wait for 5 minutes and chirp again so you really wake up and get up to find out which one has gone rogue.  Once you’re up, they rest for another hour so you get bored and start to question if you really heard something or not and go back to bed to start the entire process over 40 minutes later.  I know, it’s truly diabolical.

After I took the nuisance detector out of our ceiling in my sleep muddled daze, I went back to bed.  An hour later, same damn thing.  I woke up faster this time though, and ran to the hallway to see which one it was.  Like I said, there are five possible suspects within five feet of each other.  I got there in time to wait for the second chirp and when it went, I still had no idea which one it was.  At this point, I didn’t know the details of their evil plan to rob me of precious sleep, so I stood there and waited for the next chirp.  Then I sat down to wait.  Then I lied down on the carpet to wait.  Then I said, Screw this.  I must have imagined it.  and went back to bed.  This process repeated until morning.

Day 6:  Of course the first thing I did the next morning was to complain on Facebook about the evil nature of smoke detectors.  Most people commiserated, which I appreciated.  I have one especially informative helpful FB friend (who will remain nameless) who went on about how that’s why she changes all the batteries in her smoke detectors every Christmas and 4th of July or some other such annoying nonsense.  I thought, Yeah, fine.  Be all organized or whatever.  Like they really need to be changed every 6 months.  Or do they?

Please don't make that horrible noise again. It upsets my delicate constitution.

Day 8:  This time, it was not beeping that woke me up.  It was Doodle Dog jumping into my bed.  Now, Doodle is a good dog, but he is not allowed in our bed and he knows it.  He never gets up there, certainly not at 3:00 in the morning.  When he leaped upon our sleeping selves, I woke with a start and thought that something must be terribly wrong.  I sent Husband downstairs to be sure that Darth Vader wasn’t trying to break in or whatever.  While Husband was downstairs, I heard the five minute beep.  For crying out loud!  Again?  Seriously?!  I really didn’t know what to do because I knew the detectors would do their best to keep me from finding out which one was squawking.  Eventually my head cleared enough to take the batteries out of all of them and be done with it.  Hopefully none of the children were planning on smoking in bed later that night.   Back to bed.  Of course, Doodle had other plans.  We dragged him off of the bed and he stood next to it shivering and shaking.  I got in bed and hung my leg out of the side of the covers so I could pet him with my foot.  That helped and eventually he calmed down.

To really spice things up, later the next day, the detector in one of the bedrooms (I never figured out which one, of course) started going off after one of the boys took a shower.  That was really helpful for Doodle Dog’s nerves, as you can imagine.  He was on me like white on popcorn.

Day 9:  Because I am not as big of a moron as you think a moron, when I headed to Facebook to kavetch, I remembered the wise advice of my FB friend that I paid attention to ignored and thought, Crap!  She may have a point!  It has actually been almost 2 years since we moved into this house and I have never changed these batteries.  And the dissappointingly not hot firefighters went around and made them all beep which used up whatever juice they had left.  No wonder they are all kicking the bucket at the same time.  So I went around with the battery tester and tested every single battery in every single smoke detector in the house and replaced the ones that weren’t fully in the green.  Problem solved due to my extremely slow innate genius, right?  Yeah, right.

Husband and I were both happily asleep at 3am. (As a side note, why is it always 3am? What does the universe have against 3am?  If one of my kids is going to wake up barfing, it is going to be 3am.  Loud cat fight outside the open bedroom window on a nice night?  3am.  Kid wets the bed?  3am.  Every. stinking. time.) 3 am I heard the beep closely followed by a dog in my bed shaking like the special dog he is.  What?  Why?  How could this possibly be?  I wasted no time taking all the detectors down and I took all the batteries out of them.  Problem solved for now.  I would deal with their demonic selves in the morning.

I wish I could say that was the end of the story, but nope.  Not just yet.  About an hour later guess what happened?  You know it.  Chirp went the alarm and into the bed went the dog.  Again.  It turns out that when I cleared the ceilings of smoke detectors, I forgot the one lone carbon monoxide detector which happens to be hiding in plain sight on the WALL instead of the ceiling, just to confuse further a terribly confused person me.  I know, ridiculous.  To figure this out I had to go stand in the hallway and be confused for several minutes, my caveman brain thinking, How this happen?  Og already smash those!  No understand!  Then I caught on and took the carbon monoxide detector down disemboweled it and went back to the comfort of our bed and the shaky dog to try to sleep with one leg hanging out of the covers.  Awesome.  The end.


Day 14:  I sat down to write this blog post and searched youtube for the clip from Modern Family where Phil freaks out about the smoke alarm beeping and smashes it with his college cheerleading baton.  (I know, it was really, really hysterical) I watched it (bummer, it was only a part of the bit I wanted to see) and in it, of course, the smoke detector beeped a couple of times.  Don’t you know, the dog rockets toward me and hides under the desk quivering like a Jello.  That is really the end.

Until Christmas and the 4th of July when I change the batteries again.

(Image Credits:  Smoke alarm plan from wikipedia, Backdraft movie poster available from here.)

About Adventures From Cloud 8

I am a stay at home mom who now and again sneaks away to be an in-home family therapist. My husband and I have 3 boys: Sweet Pea (12), Pickles (9) and Pumpkin Pie (4). Oh yeah. We have Doodle Dog, too. You guessed it! He’s a boy. At least he pees outside.
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1 Response to Alarming Smoke Detectors: A Long Story

  1. Jackie says:

    Laughing out loud, then I remember we recently disemboweled our smoke detectors (obviously for the very same reasons) and I have yet to put them back together so they can, you know, let us know when something is actually on fire. I better get on that. Great post, Tracey.

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