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How to Handle the Franks In Your Life
(AKA How to Handle Nuisance Alarms from Smoke Detectors)

 

Remember in school when your teacher or the local visiting fire authority told you to make sure you check your smoke detectors in your homes every month? Hence, you would run home from school and annoy your parents because you knew how to set off the very loud alarm and you claimed that you were doing your “civic duty.” You then proceeded to practice your “civic duty” every day just to cause a ruckus and get attention until that attention got you a time out or you became grounded for the weekend.

 

… Yeah, I never did that either…

 

However, as adults, how quick are we to test our smoke detectors once a month? I usually do but that’s because of my cooking.  No, I am not THAT bad of a cook. However, that’s because in my apartment, the smoke detector is practically in my kitchen. So just about once a month, I either open the oven or start using my skillet and, inevitably, I fling a spoonful of vegetables all over the cabinets because of that loud, high-pitched yell of a siren takes me off guard. And in the case of my smoke detector, a loud voice, whom I lovingly named “Frank,” starts yelling “FIRE”, “FIRE” at me as if I never noticed the high pitched siren in the first place. I then proceed to fling open every window and door in the apartment and waft my arms around in the air like a flamingo just so that “Frank” would go back asleep.

 

… Suffice to say, my smoke detector works this month … Thanks Frank.

 

I’m inevitably not the only person I know who is affected by Frank (aka Nuisance Alarms). I often hear Frank visiting other apartments in my complex because they too have a smoke detector in their kitchen. But having a good basic knowledge of smoke detectors can help you handle Frank more easily when he shows up. Here are some tips about Frank that you may want to know.

 

1)  Most smoke detectors that act like Frank do so because they are installed within 20 feet of the kitchen.

 

Although smoke detectors are a wise thing to have in your house or apartment, there are still some not wise places to put them. According to the City of Geneva, IL and the American Red Cross, the garage and the kitchen may cause “nuisance alarms.” With the garage, exhaust fumes from your car may set the smoke detector off. In the kitchen, well…. People will have Frank visit them fairly often. The city of Geneva suggests that you put a smoke detector at least 20 feet from cooking areas. Otherwise, it is fairly often that people will just take the battery out of a “nuisance alarm” and what will you do when there really is a fire, particularly during a time most needed, like when you’re sleeping.

 

In some instances, such as my apartment, there is nothing you can do about a smoke detector being installed within 20 feet. It is usually suggested that these smoke detectors have a silencing button on them. Check your smoke detectors if they have one. It is better to silence the alarm than take the battery out!

 

 

2)  If Frank starts yelling in the kitchen and there is no visible smoke, you probably have an Ionization-type smoke detector.

 

There are two different types of smoke detectors, ionization and photoelectric. Ionization detectors will alarm faster to small smoke particles and photoelectric responds quicker to larger smoke particles. Usually ionization detectors are more sensitive to cooking. Sometimes when cooking, you cannot see any smoke but the combustion of a flame can release small smoke particles that are not visible to the naked eye. But even though you cannot see it, it is still smoke and it will set off your smoke detector, especially the ionization-type.

 

You can always change your ionization detector to a photoelectric detector, which will slightly delay your response time and hopefully prevent “nuisance alarms.” Remember about potential silencing buttons as well. Detectors with the combination of ionization and photoelectric usually sets the ionization to be slightly less sensitive, and may be a good option for detectors close to the kitchen.

 

3)  If Frank starts “chirping”, try changing the battery.

 

I don’t know if you have ever heard this “chirping” before but it is very annoying. This chirping will often go off about every minute and the smoke detector is trying to let you know that it is almost out of battery power. But it wants to let you know that you need to replace the battery before it loses all power, because, again, you know that a dead detector is not a good detector. Many people will just take out the battery when it starts to chirp. See the last point on why this is not a good option.

 

4)  Although annoying, Frank has been known to save lives.

 

According to the American Red Cross:

·       The fire death rate in homes with working smoke alarms is 51% less than the rate for homes without this protection.

·       Having a working smoke alarm reduces one’s chances of dying in a fire by nearly half.

·       From 2000-2004, no smoke alarms were present or none operated in almost half of the reported home fires.

·       An estimated 890 lives could be saved each year if all homes had working smoke alarms.

·       Sixty-five percent of reported home fire deaths in 2004 occurred in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

 

 

Please don’t silence Frank permanently by taking out the battery. It is better to have Frank around just in case. In the wise words of my mother, she would always say, “It is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”

If you have any interesting stories about your own experience with smoke alarms, please let us know in the comments!

 

 

 Sources: 

http://www.geneva.il.us/DocumentCenter/View/250

 

http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4340088_FireSmokeAlarmFactSheet.pdf

 

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