How Old Are Your Smoke Detectors?

The 2nd of 2 posts to support October being National Fire Prevention Month. The first reminded us not all heroes wear capes; this one asks: How Old Are Your Smoke Detectors?

How Old Are Your Smoke Detectors

In December of 2008, on the last day of a roof repair in my complex, a worker using a torch improperly started a fire. I was working home that day, and from maybe 150 feet away, I saw my neighbors’ building at right burn from the top down.

Months later I was hired for a fire restoration project in another coop. This fire started in the MBR, and was electrical.

In the photo below you’re in the room where the fire started, looking up through the floor joists-where the ceiling was-into the bedroom that was above his.

How Old Are Your Smoke Detectors

Circled in red are the soot marks that came up through the cracks where the ceiling/floor met the walls. Also, through the outlet, meaning smoke came up between the walls.

Thank God, the firefighters, and working smoke detectors-everyone got out ok both times. 

Fire is a terrible thing, but if you’re so unfortunate to see it first-hand, it’s visceral. The speed and scale of its destruction takes your breath away. 11 years later, I still stop every White Plains firefighter I meet in public and thank them, usually with tears running down my face.

I’m in a lot of houses and am shameless about fire prevention, and fire safety.  This time of year we’re reminded to change the batteries when we change the clocks. I suggest taking it up a notch and ask: How old are your smoke detectors? If you can’t remember, think hard about changing them now.

How Old Are Your Smoke DetectorsCheck the color of the plastic case. White when new, detectors yellow mightily with age.

I counsel design clients that old smoke detectors are a big ugly against white ceilings. As a stager, I explain buyers see new smoke detectors as an indication of a well-maintained house. Odd to use aesthetics-shaming, or financial interests as a motivator to keep loved ones safe, but not sorry.

NFRA estimates 74% of deaths from home fires happen in properties with no smoke detectors, or no working smoke detectors.

Fall into winter is the peak time of year for house fires. Depending on the floor plan, a typical 3 BR house requires 6-8 detectors, costing maybe $300. Prevention is key, but smoke detectors can save your life if the unthinkable happens.